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News Briefs I

South Korea Seeks IMF Financial Rescue Package

The Washington Post
South Korea

As the value of its currency continued to plunge, South Korea began preliminary discussions Thursday with the International Monetary Fund on a financial rescue package, according to press reports from Seoul and government officials.

The figures cited in the Korean press reports indicated that the bailout would be the biggest ever, topping the $50 billion IMF-led package that was assembled for Mexico in 1995. The state-owned Yonhap Television News reported that Seoul is seeking up to $60 billion in financial assistance.

If Korean President Kim Young Sam formally approves the request to the IMF, it will represent a deeply humiliating step for a nation that takes enormous pride in its rise from the devastation of the Korean War to economic modernity in a few generations.

Although major Korean conglomerates such as Samsung and Hyundai remain formidable industrial powerhouses, the nation's financial markets have been struck by a crisis similar to that which afflicted Southeast Asian countries in recent months.

On Wednesday, South Korea unveiled a series of actions to stabilize financial markets. But the won quickly dropped the full amount that is allowed in a single day, 10 percent, closing at 1,129 to the dollar.

Microsoft Chairman Bristles At Monopoly Accusations

The Washington POsT

Bill Gates slouches on the sofa in his office and listens intently to the question. There is silence. His brow furrows. He fidgets, he rocks. He scowls.

"What is the most pro-competitive thing that's ever happened in the economy?" he demanded. "Personal computers connected to the Internet, by far." And Microsoft has helped that happen, Gates said. And if his competitors don't like it, he suggested, then they should fight him in the marketplace. "It turns out that in capitalism, firms actually pick what products they do and what features to put in those products without the government helping them to decide how to do that," he said.

Last month, the Justice Department took legal action against Microsoft, contending it has violated the terms of a 1995 consent decree by using its market clout in operating-system software to boost the acceptance of its Internet "browser" software. Microsoft has countered that it's simply improving its products and giving consumers more value for their money.

The two sides are scheduled to appear before a federal court judge.

White House Releases More Fund-Raiser Tapes

The Washington Post

The White House on Thursday released tapes of 24 political events attended by President Clinton and Vice President Gore during their 1996 re-election campaign, all but two of them campaign fund-raisers.

Unlike tapes submitted earlier to the committee, none of the events took place in the White House, and the vast majority were overtly campaign fund-raisers where there was no question of wrongdoing by Clinton or Gore in asking for money.

"We didn't find anything that was all that interesting," said Paul Clark, spokesman for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which had subpoenaed the tapes. The committee has now received tapes of 238 events featuring Clinton, Gore or both.

Included in the tapes was one from a July 13, 1995, fund-raiser at the Maryland home of Tom Schneider, partner of the chief lobbyist for a group of Indian tribes who were trying to block plans by rival tribes to open a casino in Hudson, Wis. The Interior Department rejected the casino plan the day after the fund-raiser.

White House special counsel Lanny J. Davis said the administration regarded only two of the tapes as "directly responsive" to the committee's subpoena: a Dec. 8, 1996, Mayflower Hotel event attended by businessman Roger Tamraz; and a May 16, 1996, Sheraton Washington Hotel banquet that may show a fleeting glimpse of Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie. Tamraz and Trie are key figures in the administration's 1996 fund-raising scandals.

Davis said the White House submitted the other 22 tapes "in a spirit of cooperation" but withheld 43 others, because "they were not about fund-raising."