[THE INVESTOR] Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong took center stage, literally, during parliamentary probe on Dec.6, both in terms of questions received and in seating arrangement.
SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin were respectively placed to Lee’s left and right at the hearing of South Korea’s eight biggest business tycoons. They were summoned to the National Assembly to testify on their involvement in the presidential scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her confidante Choi Soon-sil.
CJ Group Co-chairman Sohn Kyoung-shik, 77, and Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo, 78, were respectively assigned to sit on the far left and far right of the table in consideration of their age and weak health.
Political pundits say the eight heads wanted to avoid sitting in the middle section of the table to receive as little attention as possible.
Besides the mentioned heads, LG Group Chairman Koo Bon-moo, Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn and Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho were also present.
The eight business tycoons, who had donated 77.4 billion won ($66.1 million) to the Mir and K-Sports foundations controlled by Choi Soon-sil, were quizzed on whether the president pressured them to make the donations, and for allegedly receiving favors in return.
Samsung heir apparent Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey and Lotte Group Chairman Shin were placed in the middle based on the opposition parties’ impeachment bill, which charges the three on bribery.
Samsung donated some 20.4 billion won to the foundations, and allegedly also provided financial support to Choi Soon-sil. Suspicions are also growing over what led the state-run National Pension Service to support last year’s landmark merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries.
Lotte Group is suspected of getting back the 7 billion won donation it made to K-Sports Foundation, and for gaining a duty-free license after its one-on-one private talk with the president.
It is the first time in 28 years that heads of major conglomerates were summoned for parliamentary investigation.
The hearing began on Dec.6 at 10 a.m. and was broadcast live on television. Eighteen lawmakers on the special committee from both sides of the aisle took turns questioning the heads.
By Kim Bo-gyung/The Korea Herald (email@example.com)