Not everyone in Washington is upset about the South Korean bribery scandal. Feiderman thinks Congress and the Justice Department are barking up the wrong tree.
"Look," he told me. "The U.S. has given away billions of dollars in foreign aid to countries all over the world and have you ever heard anyone say as much as "thank you?" So South Korea, through its own CIA, decides it wants to show its gratitude to some of the congressmen who made the aid to them possible. And everybody starts screaming like they've done something wrong."
"But giving money to congressmen could in some circles, be considered a bribe," I said.
"That's ridiculous. The last thing the South Koreans would want to do is bribe an American congressman with money or gifts or entertainment or girls. Those honorable elected officials on the Hill would never accept anything if they thought there were any strings attached.
"All the South Koreans were saying was "We humbly thank you for all you have done for our humble country with this humble gift which we only wish could be humbly more.'"
"No matter what spirit the money was given in it still looks like a bribe," I insisted.
"That's because you're cynical about true friendship. The South Koreans have been giving gifts and money for thousands of years. It is part of their tradition and you insult them if you refuse their presents. We're not in a position to offend a staunch ally."
I stuck to my guns. "It's still not kosher."
"Nothing in South Korea is," Feiderman said. "But let me ask you this. After all we've done for France, have they ever given our congressmen so much as a free bottle of perfume? What about West Germany?
"We put West Germany back on her feet and do any of their secret service people come around handing out plain brown envelopes with German marks? And while we're at it, you would think the least the Japanese CIA could do for Congress is give each of them a Sony television set. But only little South Korea thought of returning some of the largesse we laid on them.
"The South Koreans are the only ones who recycled our foreign aid money, bringing joy and jobs to Washington. The thing I admire most about them is that they did it for so long and so quietly, and without fanfare."
"That's true," I said. "But what about Tongsun Park? He certainly didn't stay out of the news."
"Tongsun was a great AMerican," Feiderman said.
"He was not. He was a great South Korean," I protested.
"Well, anyhow he was a great host. He filled an entertainment void in this town at the height of Watergate. He wined and dined the House leadership in their darkest hours.
"He could have kept the commissions he made on rice sales to himself. But he chose to spread the money around. Why?"
"So he could influence our leaders?"
"You're wrong. He did it because that is the way things are done in the Korean culture. To a Korean, a man is your friend, whether he be the highest chairman of a U.S. congressional committee or the lowest three-star general in the Pentagon. Once he becomes your friend you must bestow presents on him. The worst way for a Korean to lose face is to hand an envelope stuffed with $100 bills to an American visitor, and have it returned by the U.S. ambassador the next day. When this happens he can never face his superiors again."
"Feiderman, let me ask you one last questions. Do you happen to work as a lobbyist for the South Korean government?"
He grinned from ear to ear. "You'll have to admit - it's not a bad account."