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Fri, Dec 14, 2001 - Page 3 News List

`Next' magazine article slams Lu, peace prize award

TAINTED GOODS The muckracking journal questions the validity of the recently accepted award as well as the legitimacy of the organization that gave the prize

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Officials yesterday defended Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) after the latest issue of Next magazine (壹周刊) made accusations of wrongdoing in awarding of the World Peace Prize Award Council's (WPPAC) top honor.

Next questioned the legitimacy of the prize as well as what it described as the wrongdoings of the major organizers.

The report said although WPPAC, together with its related agencies such as the World Peace Corps Academy and the World Peace Corps Mission, have registered with the US government, the authority of the peace prize was marred by the organization's history and the reputations of its founders.

For instance, the world peace prize, which came into being in 1990, was not granted on a regular basis, with the award going to four winners in 1995, two in 1996 and 1997 respectively, and none in 1991 to 1994, 1998 and 1999.

Controversy over the qualifications of previous prize winners also triggered misgivings on the part of critics, the report said.

According to related materials, in 1995 the prize was awarded to Han Min-su, an evangelist from South Korea, who co-founded the World Peace Corps Mission with late US congressman Robert Leggett in 1989.

The organization also crowned the controversial Cambodian leader Hun Sen in 1996, and even granted the prize to the repressive late South Korean dictator Syngman Rhee in 1996, some 30 years after Rhee passed away, the report argued.

Based on a report by AFP correspondent Michael Field, the magazine reported what it termed a hoax believed to be introduced by Han after the WPPAC awarded the world peace prize to the Tongan King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV in 1996.

Han then introduced some Koreans to sign a contract with the Tongan government in order to secure rights to explore Tonga for natural gas and to set up a nuclear waste facility, which then evaporated into thin air, the report said.

"The organization that granted Lu the World Peace Prize was just like adding flowers to brocade (錦上添花) without any ill intentions," said Katharine Chang (張小月), spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The organization didn't ask for a single penny," Chang said.

Chang also said the foreign ministry has just played a subsidiary role throughout the process and hasn't taken the initiative in lobbying the group to give Lu the award.

Chang's comments were made in the wake of the report in the latest issue of Next which hit news stands yesterday.

In response to the Next article, the Vice President's Office issued a press release yesterday, saying the report has "focussed intense attention on the vice president." The press release also states that Lu has requested the award's sponsors to look into Next's allegations.

"We've been conducting an investigation into the validity of the report, and will hold a press conference to explain the whole episode soon," a staffer at Lu's office told the Taipei Times.

The press release said the natural gas episode in Tonga "was purely a business transaction pertaining to an individual that seemed unrelated to the award council."

Chang said Taiwan's de facto embassy in Washington confirmed that the WPPAC had registered with the US government and its chief judge, Lester Wolff, as well as the former chairman of the US House Asian Affairs Committee.

"The importance of these prizes indeed varies. One can't expect each of these awards to be as grand as the Nobel Peace Prize," Chang added.

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