Lawmakers Gril Conglomerate Chiefs over Choi Soon-sil ScandalVideo

Write : 2016-12-06 11:08:47 Update : 2016-12-07 15:33:58

Anchor: For the first time in decades, the chiefs of South Korea's giant business conglomerates have shown up to a parliamentary hearing to answer questions about alleged improprieties. Lawmakers grilled the bosses of Samsung, SK, and other corporate titans over the presidential scandal involving Choi Soon-sil.  
As Kim Bum-soo reports, the executives denied accusations of bribery.

Report: The nine business leaders assembled before South Korean lawmakers Tuesday run the country's most iconic conglomerates groups-- Samsung, SK, Hyundai Motors, Lotte, and more.

Together, they control revenues equivalent to half of South Korea's annual economy.  

With an impeachment vote looming on Friday, lawmakers sought to find out why these massive conglomerates lent their support to projects controlled by president's long friend Choi Soon-sil.

Choi's Mir and K-Sports foundations raised 80-billion won, or nearly 68-million U.S. dollars, from the businesses-- and lawmakers suspect they may have come under pressure from the president herself.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong apologized for his business' alleged involvement but added that there was no ulterior motive behind Samsung's donations. 

[Sound bite: Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong (Korean)]
"We receive requests for support from various part of society, including culture and sports. We have not once wanted something in return in providing donations. This case is the same."

Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin denied allegations that the conglomerate wanted the government's support for continuing its duty-free shop business in return for financial help. SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won said that he didn't mean to receive anything in return for his donation of over eleven billion won.

The last time this many South Korean tycoons showed up to a parliamentary hearing was 1988 -- when former president Chun Doo-hwan was accused of exploiting illicit ties between the government and businesses. 

On July 24th last year, President Park Geun-hye invited 17 conglomerate heads to the presidential office for a luncheon meeting. At subsequent closed-door meetings with the businessmen, she is suspected of having explained the objective of the private foundations. 

[Sound bite: Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong (Korean)]
"The president called for businesses support for culture and sports, saying it would help the economy and tourism. But there was no specific mentions of foundations or donations, so I wasn't sure to be honest what it was about during the one-on-one meeting."

Suspecting motives behind Samsung's financial assistance to the controversial friend of the president, main opposition Democratic Party Rep. Park Young-sun and others questioned Lee about the state pension operator's endorsement of a crucial merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries. Lee secured control over Samsung Group through the merger which the National Pension Service voted for in a shareholder meeting in July 2014.

In October last year, the state-run horse racing operator drafted a long-term roadmap with the Korea Equestrian Federation on fostering talented individuals, which included a plan to select promising athletes and train them in Germany to prepare them for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Samsung Group’s promise to donate 18-point-six billion won, or 15-point-eight million U.S. dollars, for the project was also included in the scheme despite suspicions that the roadmap was made only to help Choi's daughter, a dressage rider, in the 2014 Asian Games.
Kim Bum-soo. KBS World Radio News. 

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