[Editorial] Get to the bottom the Chun family's illicit wealth

The Hankyoreh, July 22 2013

After confirming that Lee Sun-ja, wife of former president Chun Doo-hwan, had deposited 3 billion won (US$267.6 million) in the bank and was receiving 12 million won (US$10,700) a month in interest, prosecutors confiscated the deposit.

The huge amount of the deposit, more money than an average person could ever dream of, is surprising enough, but the audacity of Chun and his wife is even more shocking.

The branch of Nonghyup Bank in Seoul's Shinchon area, where the deposit was managed, is very close to Chun's residence. Even more boldly, the account was actually listed in Lee Sun-ja's real name.

The account was set up around Nov. or Dec. 2012, just before the presidential election, and the 3 billion won was not a cash deposit. The actions smack of the arrogant assumption that no matter what the results of the election, no one was going to mess with Chun and his wife.

Lee's presumption was also on display at the time of the general election in April 2012.

Reporters met Lee at the voting booth and suggested that Chun's family members should cover the outstanding fines that Chun owed.

"In Korea, people are responsible for their own actions. We don't do guilt by association," Lee snapped. "What you're saying is wrong."

She even posed a question to the reporters. "Chun already did his best to pay what he could. Are you aware of that?"

However, Lee is certainly not free from her husband's injustice and corruption.

In 2004, Lee was questioned by prosecutors who had been tracking Chun's hidden assets. It was at this time that they confiscated 13 billion won of Lee's money. Lee protested that it was her precious property that she had scraped together during the 10 years she and her husbands had lived at her parents' house.

Lee was said for a time to have been so busy with real estate speculation that she was called "the red pants of Yeonhui neighborhood", a nickname that came from her choice of clothing. Nevertheless, 13 billion won is way more than the wife of a low-level officer in the army could have scrimped and saved.

It was also revealed that Lee was registered as the provisional owner of land in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province, that had an asking price of 3 billion won in 1989. In Dec. 2006, the ownership of this property was passed to her daughter Hyo-seon.

Lee is also listed as the owner of the main building in the couple's residence in the Yeonhui neighborhood of Seoul, whose actual value is above 4 billion won.

Even if it is acknowledged that Lee is the real owner of these properties and large sums of money, it is still possible that Chun's illicit funds were the seed money through which this wealth was accumulated. This is why prosecutors must keep tracking the 3 billion won until they can determine where it came from.

"Chun Doo-hwan punitive fine law", which was recently passed in the National Assembly, makes it possible for prosecutors to easily access financial and accounting records.

Along with this, the prosecutors must thoroughly investigate allegations that Lee's three sons were involved in irregularities. If the sons committed crimes during the operation of their companies, that itself could become a reason for prosecuting.

In addition, a wide-ranging investigation could be an effective way to force Chun and Lee to cough up the wealth that they have hidden.



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