- The Washington Times - Monday, July 25, 2005

Korean might resign

The South Korean ambassador is under pressure to resign because of charges he was involved in a political fundraising scandal in his country’s 1997 presidential election.

Ambassador Hong Seok-hyun is expected to announce soon whether he will quit or stay in his position and fight accusations that he discussed illegal campaign contributions with an executive from the South Korean corporate giant, Samsung Corp.

South Korea’s MBC television network last week aired what it described as a taped conversation between Mr. Hong and Samsung executive Lee Hak-soo discussing an illegal corporate contribution of $3 million to the presidential campaign of Lee Hoi-chang. Mr. Lee lost the 1997 election to Kim Dae-jung.

The conversation was taped by South Korea’s National Security Planning Agency.

Mr. Hong is the former publisher of the leading South Korean newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo, which was founded 40 years ago with financial help from Samsung. He resigned his position when he was appointed ambassador in February.

Mr. Hong has not commented on the scandal, but his former newspaper and Samsung issued apologies today in South Korea.

The newspaper in an editorial offered a “since apology” for the scandal.

“The JoongAng Ilbo has taken pride in playing a role in creating a fair and just society by watching over those with political, economic and social power,” it said. “But the transcript in question seems to imply that former [publisher] Hong was involved in the political evil of the past.”

Samsung contested the validity of the recording, calling it an “invasion of privacy,” but issued an apology for “causing social turmoil.”

“Regardless whether the contents are true or not, we express our sincere apology for causing social turmoil,” the corporation said in a statement.

Bush visits embassy

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush yesterday visited the Egyptian Embassy to express their “heartfelt sympathies” for the victims of the weekend terrorist attacks in Egypt.

“The people who struck in Sharm el Sheik killed Muslims, innocent mothers and dads, people who were trying to make a living,” Mr. Bush said.

“They have no heart. They have no conscience, and they have no ideology that is hopeful. And they have an ideology of hate.”

Mr. Bush also expressed his condolences in a phone call to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Ambassador Nabil Fahmy said, “I think your presence here, your phone call to the president [Mubarak] over the weekend and also the many Americans who have been in touch with our embassy and in Cairo reflect the nature of the relationship that we have together as two countries working hand-in-hand for peace and stability in the region, working against terrorism.”

Turki to bridge gap

The new ambassador from Saudi Arabia says he wants to repair relations between Americans and Saudis that have been strained since the September 11 terrorist attacks that involved 19 hijackers including 15 Saudis.

“Opinion polls suggest there is a big gap between the two peoples resulting from the events of September 11, 2001,” Prince Turki al-Faisal told the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat over the weekend.

“Hence, one of my top priorities will be to bridge this gap between the two peoples, building on Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz‘s [April] visit to the United States.”

In a CNN interview from London, he suggested more military forces be deployed in the hunt for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

“We know that he is in an area that is very difficult to pursue him in, and, therefore, more assets and people and equipment are required,” he said.

Prince Turki is currently the Saudi ambassador to Britain and is expected to replace Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan in the fall.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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