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News Briefs II

S. Korean President Kim Promises New Campaign Against Corruption

Los Angeles Times

In a speech aimed at quelling rising public criticism over the scandals and policy gaffes that have battered his once-charmed administration, South Korean President Kim Young Sam Tuesday offered repeated apologies to his people and vowed to redouble efforts to eradicate corruption. But he offered no new specific reforms or measures to revive South Korea's limping economy.

Plagued with "sleepless nights" over the challenge of curing what he calls the "Korean disease" of corruption, Kim took sole blame for the damage and outrage prompted by a financial scandal involving almost $6 billion in questionable loans to the Hanbo Iron & Steel Co., South Korea's second largest steel maker, which declared bankruptcy last month.

The scandal had threatened to expose high-level corruption in Kim's administration, as rumors flew that his own close allies - and even his own son - had pressured reluctant bankers to make the astronomical loans to the failing company in return for secret political donations.

But prosecutors virtually wrapped up their investigation this week with the indictment of 10 people - none of them regarded as high-ranking - and cleared the president's son, Kim Hyon Chol, of any wrongdoing.

"The whole country is swept up in the agony and sorrow of the Hanbo scandal," Kim said in his 17-minute nationally televised address, a lifeless presentation that lacked the confidence and determination of his triumphant inaugural speech four years ago. "All blame should be laid on me, on my lack of capability as president. I am prepared to receive any criticism or denunciation from the people."

Kim, in the address marking the fourth anniversary of his administration, termed suspicions circulating around his son as a "great shame."

Alert Issued for Possible Bomb Truck

Los Angeles Times

Fearing another Oklahoma City-like bombing may be in the planning stage, the FBI issued a rare nationwide alert Monday for a rental truck believed too be loaded with the same diesel fuel and fertilizer ingredients that produced the 1995 explosion that killed 168 people.

But a federal law enforcement source said hours later, "We believe we have located the truck, and it contained only baking soda pellets, which are innocuous."

The FBI had cited a report from local police who said informants told of seeing two white men were seen at a gasoline station Saturday loading 30 gallons of diesel fuel and about two tons of ammonium nitrate into a U-Haul trailer in Haltom City, Texas - near Fort Worth.

It was a Ryder rental truck that carried the massive bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995.

FBI officials said they feared anti-government activists might be planning to mark the fourth anniversary on Friday of the government's raid on a cult compound near Waco, Tex., with an act of domestic terrorism.