A Ghost From The Past

Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.
Talk about a movie we've seen before. Way back in the '70s when I was a young reporter new to Washington, the unlikeliest man about town was a flamboyant Korean named Tungsun Park. He hobnobbed with everyone from Frank Sinatra to half the members of Congress. It turned out to be more than hobnobbing, of course. He was eventually charged with 36 counts of conspiracy and bribery in a scandal that involved paying off members of Congress to support South Korean projects.

He escaped trial when he told it all to Congress and a grand jury, but several members and former members of Congress were indicted and ethics rules were overhauled. Then Tungsun Park disappeared; frankly, I thought he was dead. But when I picked up the paper last week, there it was, the name Tungsun Park. He is 70 now, far from dead, and right in the middle, of all things, the U.N. oil-for-food scandal, the program that was set up to give humanitarian aid to poor Iraqis and instead allowed Saddam Hussein and corrupt businessmen to pocket literally billions of dollars for themselves. The authorities accused Park of collecting millions to lobby U.N. officials and investing in companies owned by U.N. employees.

Douglas MacArthur once said, "Old soldiers never die. They just fade away." So, too, apparently, these insider wheeler-dealer influence peddlers like Park. Unlike the old soldiers, once they fade away from view, they just keep on keeping on.

The good news is that, after all these years, the government is again on his trail. The bad news is they're still not sure exactly where he is. Here's my tip: Find a large pile of money and stake it out. Eventually, old Tungsun will show up.

By Bob Schieffer