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Time for the truth

Dec 20,2017
The National Assembly’s House Steering Committee could not have a successful meeting Tuesday despite an urgent need to address growing suspicions over President Moon Jae-in’s Chief of Staff Im Jong-Seok’s trip to the United Arab Emirates shortly before Moon’s state visit to China last week. The ruling Democratic Party did not attend the meeting and Im refused to appear. A senior member of the party called it a “politically motivated meeting.”

We don’t think so. The ruling party must participate in the meeting and Im must appear to tell the truth behind his visit to the Arab country. The Blue House’s explanation about his trip is not convincing. In the beginning, it said the chief of staff went to cheer up our UN troops there. But the timing of his trip (a day before Moon’s visit to China) and the professed goal (encouraging our soldiers) triggered a myriad of suspicions. Some linked it to a need to meet with a North Korean representative to address the nuclear problem and others linked it to the Moon administration’s desire to dig up potential shady deals between the Lee Myung-bak administration and its counterparts in the UAE.

The opposition Liberty Korea Party raised the suspicion that Im went to the UAE to ease its deepening concerns about the future of Korean reactors being built there after the Moon administration vowed to phase out nuclear power in South Korea. The presidential office denied that idea. But after a suspicious photo was released by a newspaper in the UAE, the Blue House said Im’s trip was aimed at “strengthening the partnership” with the UAE.

No one buys it. If Im really went to the UAE to dissuade it from severing ties with South Korea due to its deepening concerns about the reactors, the Blue House must explain. But it is keeping silent. What difference is there between the Moon administration and the previous two conservative governments if it only says what it wants to?

The Blue House insists that the issue of nuclear reactors was not discussed in Im’s meetings. But what kind of “partnership” is it talking about? The UAE entrusted a South Korean energy company with the construction of four reactors and the rights to run them over the next 60 years. It would be really strange if the UAE does not complain about the issue under such circumstances.

If what the Blue House said is true, there is no reason for Im to refuse to appear at the National Assembly. On Monday, he appeared at a government meeting among representatives of overseas missions even after submitting a request for a four-day vacation. The chief of staff must tell the truth.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 20, Page 34