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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 8)

All News 07:11 June 08, 2016

Nexon and prosecutor
: Key is to uncover if links affected legal cases

The prosecution is ready to launch a full-blown investigation into suspicions involving senior prosecutor Jin Kyung-joon after online game company Nexon said it lent money to him to buy its stock.

In a statement last week, Nexon said it lent 425 million won each to Jin and two other people without charging interest in 2005. The company said it asked the three to buy the then-unlisted shares a former executive wanted to sell after quitting Nexon out of the fear that "we might be under pressure to go public if an outsider purchases the stock."

Nexon's "belated" announcement came as the controversy over shoddy stock transactions involving Jin began escalating. In March, the senior prosecutor was found to have gained nearly 12 billion won by selling some 800,000 shares in the game company for 12.6 billion won last year. The case came to light in the course of a mandatory disclosure of personal wealth held by high-ranking public officials.

Nexon, currently listed on a Japanese stock exchange, had remained mute on how Jin came to buy the company's stock until last week.

Despite Nexon's explanation, many questions remain unanswered. First and foremost, Nexon's argument about the possible listing pressure from an outsider makes little sense, given that Kim Jung-ju, Nexon founder and current chairman of holding company NXC, and his wife held a combined 70 percent stake in the company back then.

Rather, it might be more reasonable to speculate that the company offered the incumbent prosecutor at that time the favor of buying the unlisted stock cheaply ahead of its listing in Japan. This speculation sounds all the more plausible, considering that Jin and Kim are fellow Seoul National University alumni and their families are close.

While suspicions about the case have been snowballing since March, Jin has lost public confidence by reiterating lies. At first, he said he had bought the shares with his own money, but later said during an inspection by the Government Public Ethics Committee that the money came from his mother-in-law. But now it turns out that he bought the shares with money he borrowed from Nexon.

The government cannot avoid criticism of having been bent on defending Jin from the outset. The Ministry of Justice reacted unfavorably to the call for the probe of Jin, saying it was a personal matter, and didn't even conduct its own internal inspection. The prosecution also dragged its feet until the last minute despite mounting calls for an investigation.

Whether Nexon's explanation is true will be revealed through the investigation. But that the company enabled Jin to buy coveted shares even with corporate funds convinces the public that it is merely an act of offering a bribe to a public official to insure the company against any future charges.

That is why the prosecution should focus on finding out if Jin has peddled influence in any legal cases involving the game company. It's also necessary to uncover the allegations that the stock offered to Jin was shares hidden under the Nexon founder's borrowed-name accounts.

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