Former President Roh Tae-woo is expected to pay the remainder of a massive fine for corruption in office soon. It has taken Roh 16 years to pay the remaining W23 billion (US$1=W1,123) of his W262.9 billion fine, but he is at last negotiating with his younger brother Jae-woo (78) and former in-law Shin Myong-soo (72), the ex-Shindongbang Group chairman, to pay off the remainder.
The two men apparently managed Roh's slush fund and made a handsome profit from investing it.
In April 1997, the Supreme Court sentenced Roh to 17 years in prison for staging a military coup, bribery and other charges and fined him W262.9 billion. He was later pardoned and has paid 91 percent of the fine in 97 separate installments. But his equally disgraced predecessor Chun Doo-hwan (82) has still only paid 24 percent of a W220.5 billion fine for corruption in office and still owes W167.2 billion. Chun claims he is broke, but he and his family continue to live a life of enormous luxury.
Roh's payment of the full fine will not rehabilitate him completely, though some observers believe he is rushing to pay up to secure a burial place in the National Cemetery. But the behavior of his brother and brother-in-law has also been contemptible. In 2001, the Supreme Court accepted Roh's claim that he entrusted Shin with a W23 billion slush fund and his brother with W12 billion, but Shin has coughed up only W500 million and Roh Jae-woo just W5.28 billion and they continue to feud among themselves.
There is a good chance that the shady pair have decided to pay Roh’s fine because a new bill passed earlier this year to recover Chun’s ill-gotten gains extends the statute of limitations on forfeiture of illegally acquired assets to 10 years and allows forfeiture of assets of family members or acquaintances.
Prosecutors recently raided the homes and offices of Chun's family and acquaintances and seized their property, and Chun's brother-in-law Lee Chang-seok was arrested for his role in allegedly transferring wealth to Chun's two sons. The ex-president's sons are expected to be summoned by prosecutors soon.
Shin and Roh Jae-woo appear to have become amenable after 10 years of refusing to pay the remaining fine because they do not want to end up in jail.
Once Roh pays up, Chun will be the only disgraced former leader left with unpaid fines. The public was shocked to learn in the latest investigation that Chun's family have more than W100 billion in assets. Chun has thrown away honor and pride simply to protect the wealth he amassed through bribes and extortion during his military dictatorship during the 1980s. It is time for the old man and his family to pull themselves together.