Hanwha Chairman Gets Out of Jail Free

    September 12, 2007 10:22

    Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn leaves the Seoul Central District Court in a wheelchair on Tuesday. A court Tuesday suspended a prison term handed to chemical and finance tycoon Kim over a conviction in a sensational revenge beating attack, citing his poor health. /AP

    Hanwha Group chairman Kim Seung-youn went home with his jail sentence suspended 124 days after he was arrested in May for his role in a mafia-style revenge attacks on a group of bar workers who had injured his son in a brawl. The Seoul Central Court suspended the tycoon's 18-month prison sentence for three years in an appeals trial Tuesday. Kim was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service instead. Neither Kim nor the prosecution plans to appeal.

    As grounds for the suspension, the bench said Kim was “merely a loving father who could not control anger after his son had been injured.” And although some members of organized gangs were hired for the revenge attacks, they did not directly take part in the beatings, nor did the assault appear premeditated. However, the bench ordered Kim to perform community service saying he committed “grave misconduct using the corporate organization for the revenge attacks and ignoring his obligation to respect the law.”

    Critics say the courts have once again shown excessive lenience to conglomerate owners, Tuesday’s ruling coming as it did only a week after Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group chairman Chung Mong-koo was let out of jail on appeal. The rulings go against Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hun’s direction not to be soft on white-collar criminals.

    Kim spent 42 days, one-third of time served, outside the prison receiving hospital treatment -- an extraordinarily generous treatment unimaginable for ordinary prison inmates unless they are at death’s door. Tuesday’s appeal, on a case that made headlines for weeks due to the unprecedented “hands-on” leadership of a corporate tycoon in a mafia-style assault, took judges a mere 10 minutes to decide.

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