Independent Counsel Trains Sights on Tycoons

  • By Shin Su-ji

    January 13, 2017 10:38

    Independent counsel Park Young-soo is poised to investigate some of Korea's biggest tycoons in the massive corruption scandal that has brought down President Park Geun-hye.

    Already the counsel's team has slapped travel bans on SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won, Lotte chairman Shin Dong-bin and other corporate leaders. They all donated large sums to the dodgy Mir and K-Sports foundations run by Park's longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil, and investigators suspect Park promised them favors in return.

    In the case of SK and Lotte, Choi separately approached them for even more money. Investigators have obtained recordings showing that SK vice chairman Kim Young-tae visited the chairman in August 2015 to tell him he was to be freed from jail under a special presidential amnesty three days later. "We have received a related request," he told Chey.

    They believe Kim Chang-geun, the chairman of the group's control tower SK SUPEX Council, met with Park on July 24 and requested the special pardon.

    Lotte is suspected of donating the money in return for winning the right to operate duty free shops in downtown Seoul.

    Prosecutors in an earlier investigation raided the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and National Tax Service to obtain evidence related to the authorization of the business licenses.

    SK and Lotte were then pressured to donate an additional W8 billion and W7 billion to Choi following a second meeting with Park in February and March last year.

    CJ Group, meanwhile, contributed generously to Park's crackpot culture promotion schemes, allegedly to win the release of chairman Lee Jae-hyun, who was in jail for embezzlement. Just before Lee was given a special pardon in May last year, CJ broke ground on a W1.4-trillion pop-culture center in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.

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