FOR LEON JAWORSKI, the former Watergate Special Prosecutor, the case he's now handling for the House Committee on Official Standards must give him an uncomfortable sense of [deja vu.] For Richard Nixon, read Park Chung Hee, stonewalling President of South Korea. And for the incriminating Watergate tapes, read Tongsun Park, free-wheeling rice dealer and former resident of Washington now holed up out of reach in Seoul, and assorted other equally inaccessable and uncooperative South Korean figures. The crucial difference, of course, is that South Korea is a foreign country. This simply means - as was demonstrated again by last week's breakdown of negotiations in Seoul between a U.S. Justice Department team and South Korean officials - that Mr.Jaworski cannot get at the witnesses and evidence he needs in this case in quite the way he was finally able to do so successfully in his suit to subpoena the Watergate tapes. But he's doing, in our view, the next best thing in his patient, one-step-at-a-time approach to the Korean matter:
The first step is to lay out a circumstantial case, without pointing a finger at particular congressional suspects, but in such persuasive detail as to leave no real doubt that the South Korean government was, in fact, officially engaged in a calculated, multimillion dollar effort to buy influence in the U.S. House of Representatives in favor of South Korean interests. That's what last week's three days of public hearings by the House committee were all about.
The next step is to use this evidence to make the case, in Congress and with the public, of a blatant South Korean cover-up - of an obstruction of justice with respect to prosecutions of individual congressmen that may still be hanging fire at the Department of Justice, and of an obstruction of the House investigation, as well.
An outraged public, the theory goes, will then demand that Congress use the threat of withholding American aid as a weapon to build pressure on the South Korean government to cooperate with the American investigators.
The witnesses and evidence that might then become available would put the House committee in a much stronger position to begin laying out specific cases against individual members of Congress, while also furnishing the Justice Department with important - perhaps even decisive - supporting evidence for its criminal prosecutions.
That's the theory, and to the extent that it rests on the force of the circumstantial evidence laid out in last week's testimony, nobody could reasonably argue with the judgment of Peter White, the committee's deputy counsel, at the close of the hearings that "there was an official [Spith Korean government] plan and it was executed." Nor could you doubt that Mr.Jaworski had proved what he set out to demonstrate - that the plan was to "buy off" U.S.congressmen. There was a ring of authenticity, somehow, to the code names - "Patriarch" for President Park, "Catholic Father" for the director of the Korean CIA, "cloth" for cash, and "Operation White Snow" for a project to discourage criticism of South Korea in a forthcoming foreign-aid debate. And there was something quite persuasive in the wealth of detail about envelopes stuffed with cash, lavish bank balances, South Korean checks written by the dozens to individual congressmen, and proud boasts by Tongsun Park and other South Koreans of the utility of their connections on Capital Hill. As Mr.White put it in conclusion. "The question of whether these thing took place is, very simply, a dead issue." We are pleased to note that Committee Chairman John J. Flynt (D-Ga.), whose enthusiasmfor the whole inquiry has been shall we say, contained, was seen at that moment to be nodding in agreement.
The next question, of course, has to do with the general level of indignation in Congress with respect to the Korean case. It does not have, needless to say, a universal appeal, and without names to make news, the hearings doubtless lost some of their impact. The need now is for the House to demonstrate a collective sense of outrage. One way it might begin would be to pass a resolution recommended by Mr.White, taking note that the findings of last week's hearings plainly give the lie to the South Korean government bald protestations of non-involvement, and condemning its refusal to cooperate. And if that has no effect, it seems to us that sooner or later the Congress - and the administration, as well - are somehow going to have to convey to the government in Seoul, by the way the Korean-aid question is handled, that what is hanging in the balance here is not just one House investigation or a few Justice Department proceedings but the honor of the House and the integrity of the U.S.judicial process. That should be more than enough, in our view, to call into question the future state of the longstanding and friendly alliance between South Korea and the United States.