May 08, 2007 11:53
Police suspect real gangsters were involved in a mafia-style punishment allegedly meted out by Hanwha chairman Kim Seung-youn.
"We're investigating a clue that a certain Oh, the operation chief of a crime syndicate, took part in the incident," a Seoul Metropolitan Police official said on Monday. Oh is suspected of taking part in two of three separate assaults that took place at Mt. Cheonggye, a karaoke bar in Cheongdam-dong and a bar in Bukchang-dong on March 8.
Oh reportedly went abroad on April 27. The police are looking for a third person who asked Oh to participate in the incident, the officer said. Police are investigating a tip-off that Oh, on the day when the alleged mafia-style punishment took place, was with a Hanwha employee at a restaurant in Gangnam in southern Seoul run by a member of the syndicate. Police suspect that the bodyguards who accompanied chairman Kim on the day of the incident were Oh's men.
According to witnesses, when Kim on March 8 decided to punish a group of bar workers who had earlier that night quarreled with his son, he was accompanied by some 17 heavies.
The investigation so far suggests that the gang called five staffers of a Bukchang-dong bar to the karaoke bar in Cheongdam-dong, where Kim's son and Bukchang-dong bar staffers had had a fight, and bundled them into cars and took them to a building site in Mt. Cheonggye.
There the gangsters allegedly threatened and assaulted the victims with steel pipes and tasers. Their threats, such as "Your wrists will be chopped off" and "You will be buried alive" had a peculiar mafia-style ring to them, witnesses said.
Police believe Kim and the gangsters drove from Mt. Cheonggye to the Bukchang-dong bar around midnight that day. Kim senior and junior and some of the gangsters entered the bar while a dozen or so were deployed as lookouts in nearby alleys, according to witnesses. The men were seen covering an object that looked like a knife with a towel, a witness said. When the chairman and his heavies appeared, the outnumbered bar staff knelt on the floor and were assaulted.
Meanwhile, the scandal has led to battle of wills between police and Korea’s 10th largest conglomerate after application for an arrest warrant for Kim was delayed due to police failure to secure evidence.
National Police Agency chief investigator Kang Hee-rak criticized Hanwha at a press briefing. He named a Hanwha executive also called Kim (51), chairman Kim's chief secretary, plus the president of a contractor of the same surname who is said to have been at the site of the incident after a phone call from the executive, as well a friends of the chairman's son identified as Lee (22), and challenged them to explain why they went underground if they were innocent.
"If it is established in the investigation that others helped the suspects escape, they will be ferreted out and punished according to the law," Kang warned.
Hanwha professed outrage. "Senior police officers are strange people," said the group's vice president in charge of management and planning. "Having neither issued a summons nor requested his appearance by telephone, the police are telling the media that (the executive Kim) has escaped." The president of the contractor, who voluntarily went to the police and was questioned Monday evening, also said he had received no request to present himself for questioning.
Meanwhile, Hanwha on Monday filed for an injunction with the Seoul Southern District Court against a planned KBS special on the scandal in its flagship current affairs series. The program is scheduled to air on Wednesday evening.
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