President Park Geun-hye Named as A Bribery Suspect By Prosecutors

I am really curious what evidence the prosecutors have against President Park that she committed bribery because I have yet to see any?:

South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye was named a bribery suspect on Tuesday as special prosecutors wrapped up their three-month probe into a massive influence-peddling scandal.

The probe team, led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo, suspects that the president colluded with her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil and took bribes from the country’s largest conglomerate Samsung Group in return for business favors, its spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said.

President Park, currently awaiting the Constitutional Court’s decision on her impeachment, will not face charges for now as an incumbent president has immunity from criminal indictment.

State prosecutors will decide whether to continue with the investigation into Park as the deadline for the special probe team expires Tuesday.

Special prosecutors indicted Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of Samsung, on charges of giving or promising some 43.3 billion won (US$38.3 million) in bribes to the president’s jailed friend Choi in return for the government’s backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015.  [Yonhap]

I would not be surprised if the prosecutors named her as a bribery suspect just to appease the mobs of protesters knowing full well they don’t have any evidence to charge her.

Samsung Heir Lee Jae-yong Arrested for Corruption Linked to ROK Presidential Scandal

Considering the mountain of lawyers that Lee Jae-yong is sure to have I hope the ROK prosecutors have some indisputable evidence if they have any hope of convicting him:

Lee Jae Yong

Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., enters the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul on Feb. 16, 2017, to attend a hearing on the legitimacy of his arrest sought for the second time by special prosecutors for alleged bribery involving impeached President Park Geun-hye and related to the merger of two of Samsung’s affiliates. (Yonhap)

Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group’s de facto leader, was formally arrested Friday on charges of bribery in connection with a high-profile corruption scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her friend.

With the Seoul Central District Court issuing the arrest warrant, Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., became the first leader of the country’s largest business group to be detained in a criminal probe.

The investigation team, led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo, requested the writ for a second time on Tuesday — less than a month after its first request on Lee’s charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury was turned down.

In their second pursuit of the warrant, the prosecutors leveled more charges against the tycoon, including hiding criminal proceeds and violating the law on transferring assets abroad in the process of giving bribes to the president’s friend Choi Soon-sil.

“The rationale for and the necessity of (Lee’s) arrest is acknowledged considering the new charges and additional evidence collected,” the court said in a text message sent to reporters.

The court, however, rejected the request for a warrant to arrest Samsung Electronics President Park Sang-jin, saying it is difficult to recognize the need for his detention.

Following the court’s decision, Lee is to stay at a detention center in Uiwang, south of Seoul, where he had been waiting for the ruling.

Prosecutors have suspected that Lee gave or promised some 43 billion won (US$36.3 million) worth of bribes to Choi in exchange for the government’s backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Choi Soon-sil’s Niece Admits to Bribery Allegations Involving Samsung

It appears South Korean prosecutors have been able to flip Choi Soon-sil’s niece and she is testifying against her.  With Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong saying he felt pressured him to give money to Choi’s foundation and her own niece confirming the allegation, it seems the prosecutors have a very strong case against her now:

Chang Si-ho (front, L), Kim Chong (front, C) and Choi Soon-sil (front, R) stand trial at the Seoul Central District Court on Jan. 17, 2017. (Yonhap)

Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the center of a South Korean presidential impeachment scandal, clashed with a niece Tuesday over allegations they coerced Samsung Group into making donations to a sports foundation under their control.

Choi, her niece Chang Si-ho and former Vice Culture and Sports Minister Kim Chong were summoned to the Seoul Central District Court to testify on allegations they colluded to extort more than 1.6 billion won (US$1.35 million) in donations from the nation’s largest business group to the Korea Winter Sports Elite Center, which was established in June 2015.

Chang early on admitted that they forced the donations from Samsung and that she embezzled funds from the center. Her admission came a day after special prosecutors investigating the scandal sought an arrest warrant for Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong on charges of bribery.

According to the prosecutors, Lee was involved in Samsung’s decision to give up to 43 billion won to various organizations linked to Choi in return for the Park Geun-hye administration’s backing of a merger between two companies belonging to the conglomerate in 2015.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but what I haven’t seen strong evidence of yet is how President Park Geun-hye was involved in all of this?

Arrest Warrant Issued for Heir to Samsung for Perjury and Bribery

It will be interesting to see if the prosecutors have the evidence to prove their case because Samsung and the women behind the ROK Presidential scandal Choi Soon-sil as well as President Park Geun-hye are denying everything:

Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., leaves the special prosecutor’s office in Seoul on Jan. 13, 2017, after 22 hours of questioning over allegations Samsung Group offered financial aid to President Park Geun-hye’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the center of a massive corruption scandal, in return for business favors. (Yonhap)

Special prosecutors on Monday requested an arrest warrant for Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group’s de facto leader, on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury in connection with an influence-peddling scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment.

Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., is accused of giving or promising to give some 43 billion won (US$36.3 million) worth of bribes to Park’s jailed friend Choi Soon-sil in return for the state-run pension fund’s backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates, the team’s spokesman Lee Kyu-chul told a regular press briefing.

Samsung signed a 22 billion won consulting contract in August 2015 with a Germany-based firm owned by the woman who is at the center of the scandal and allegedly sent the company billions of won, which was used to fund her daughter’s equestrian training, according to prosecutors. The money that was originally promised to be handed over was included in the amount deemed as bribes, Lee, the spokesman, said.

Some 20.4 billion won the group donated to two nonprofit foundations, allegedly linked to Choi, was also viewed as a kickback. It was the largest amount given by any business group to the organizations.

Prosecutors suspect Samsung supported Choi in return for the National Pension Service (NPS) approving the contested merger of two Samsung subsidiaries on July 17, 2015.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

South Korean Principal and Teachers Charged In Pay for Grades Scheme

This article makes me wonder how many “white envelopes” are being passed to teachers in South Korea? Is this just the tip of the iceberg?:

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A case involving the principal and two teachers of a private girls’ high school in Gwangju was sent to prosecutors on charges of fabricating the school records of 25 students in order to help them gain admission to good colleges, police said Wednesday.

The three educators are suspected to have either raised the test scores of 12 students in the 11th grade and 13 students in the 12th grade or lied about their extracurricular activities.

Authorities did not say exactly how many students were aware of the plot, but hinted that “several” must have known because they were called into the teacher’s office and specifically asked what details the teachers could add to their documents to make them look better.

Some parents were said to have paid each teacher about 2 million won ($1,828) for the service, said police.   [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but I am a bit surprised by how cheap the bribe was.

Advocates Look to Expand South Korean Anti-Corruption Law to Include Unions and Civic Groups

The expansion of the anti-corruption law is clearly targeted at the unions and civic groups that are largely left leaning.  With that said will these anti-corruption laws just make these groups instead focus on campaign contributions like what happens in the US to influence politicians?:

South Korea’s National Assembly in Seoul (Yonhap) 

Lawmakers belonging to the ruling and opposition parties are generally in favor of expanding the anti-graft law to encompass the country’s labor unions and civic groups, a poll showed Sunday.

The survey carried out on lawmakers sitting on parliament’s National Policy Committee showed 10 supporting the expansion versus five who were opposed, with four saying they did not have a view on the matter.

The poll carried out by Yonhap News Agency shows awareness among lawmakers that the law can be revised down the line to make it more comprehensive and better reflect public calls to root out graft.

The Kim Young-ran anti-graft law, named after the former Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission chief, aims to tighten loopholes in existing anti-corruption rules under which public officials cannot be punished for accepting expensive gifts and services unless there is evidence of reciprocity.

The law passed by the National Assembly in March 2015 and set to go into effect on Sept. 28 subjects public officials, journalists and private school faculty to a maximum penalty of three years in prison or a fine of five times the amount they accept in money or valuables if they exceed 1 million won (US$896) in one lump sum or 3 million won in total annually, regardless of whether it is in exchange for favors or related to their work. The regulations make it illegal to accept meals exceeding 30,000 won, presents in excess of 50,000 won, and money for congratulations and condolences of over 100,000 won, and bars people in these occupations from from making improper solicitations.

“Although it may seem excessive by some because of the considerable influence civic groups and labor unions exert on society, it only makes sense that they are covered by the law,” a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker said.

He pointed out that it makes no sense to include journalists and schoolteachers who are not public servants, while leaving out unionists and civic group members.  [Yonhap]

It will be interesting to see what the reaction to this is going to be.  It is difficult to lobby publicly against an anti-corruption law that is trying to end bribery.

Corruption Investigators Raid Lotte Group Headquarters In Seoul

The whole issue with the succession issues and now government raid of Lotte Group is playing out like a Korean television drama:

Investigators carry out confiscated documents after raiding the headquarters of the Seoul-based Lotte Group on June 10, 2016. (Yonhap)

Prosecutors raided the headquarters of South Korea’s retail giant Lotte Group, as well as its six affiliates, on Friday over allegations of embezzlement and malpractice.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said it sent some 200 investigators to 17 places, including the group’s headquarters in central Seoul, its major affiliates and the homes of some executives.

Hotel Lotte Co., TV channel Lotte Homeshopping and its key retail unit Lotte Shopping Co. were all raided.

Prosecutors said they confiscated computer hard drives, accounting books and other documents in their asset transactions.

Travel bans have been put out for some of the company’s senior officials, according to prosecutors. Some of the executives are accused of making secret funds by exaggerating unit prices in contracts with their subcontractors.

Prosecutors also suspect the group created slush funds while making transactions between its affiliates.

“We could no longer postpone the raid as there have been tips that evidence was being destroyed,” a senior prosecutor said.

The conglomerate, which has sprawling businesses in both South Korea and Japan, has been riddled with a series of scandals from last year, including a high-profile fight between brothers for managerial control and the recent prosecutors’ probe into the group’s duty-free business unit.

Hotel Lotte Co., which has been preparing to list its shares later this month, postponed the proposed initial public offering (IPO) to next month as its senior officials have come under investigation over alleged bribery.

Prosecutors raided the hotel unit and the house of Shin Young-ja, the head of Lotte Foundation and daughter of group founder Shin Kyuk-ho, over the allegations last week.

The 74-year-old Shin and other company officials are suspected of receiving kickbacks from Jung Woon-ho, chief of the scandal-ridden cosmetics brand Nature Republic, in return for favorable space in Lotte’s duty-free shops. Both Shin and Hotel Lotte flatly denied the allegations.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but I wonder if we see Mr. Shin show up in court in a wheel chair?

In Korea, Teachers Accepting Cash for Favors Is Not Considered Bribery

That is at least what a Seoul court ruled earlier this week in a bribery case involving two teachers in  Seoul:

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A Seoul court on Wednesday ruled in favor of two private school teachers who accepted money and gifts from the parents of their students.

The teachers, who work at Gyeseong Elementary School, were both charged with taking bribes but later acquitted by the Seoul Central District Court.

The ruling prompted an angry response from those in the education circle, with Kim Hyung-nam, the inspector of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, calling the decision “embarrassing.”

One of the teachers, surnamed Shin, 48, stood accused of taking cash, gift certificates and gifts worth a total of 4.6 million won ($3,930) from two parents over multiple occasions when he taught fourth-grade last year.

The other, surnamed Kim, 45, was accused of accepting 4 million won as well as valuables from one parent.

The court ruled Wednesday that while Shin had accepted the money and gifts, those actions did not amount to bribe-taking.

He was asked to do general favors for the students, the court said, but did not carry out unlawful favors in return for compensation.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read the rest at the link.

ROK Authorities Search for USFK Official Accused of Taking $890,000 Bribe

It just wouldn’t be a major construction project in Korea without a bribery scandal of some kind and USFK is not immune to this:

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Police said Tuesday that they have raided SK Engineering & Construction Co. and its construction site on a U.S. base in central South Korea over slush fund allegations involving a U.S. military official.

The National Police Agency confiscated materials including account books and computer hard disks from the head office of SK E&C in Seoul and its work site at the U.S. Forces Korea base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, a police official said on condition of anonymity.

An SK E&C subcontractor allegedly stashed away about 1 billion won (US$890,000) and handed it over to a then USFK official in 2010, according to the official. The now-defunct subcontractor is headed by a former South Korean field officer.

The police have already obtained witness accounts from former employees of the subcontractor. They are currently investigating whether SK E&C was involved.

They have also sent investigators to the U.S. to ask U.S. law enforcement authorities for cooperation in searching for the former USFK official.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but $890,000 bribe has got to be one of the biggest bribery scandals in USFK history.  That is a lot of money.  If anyone is wondering, corruption involving USFK personnel is nothing new. What is important is that these people are caught and punished to discourage others from trying to pull off the same scams.

Park Administration Continues to Be Rocked By Bribery Scandal

It is going to be hard for President Park to launch an anti-corruption campaign in the wake of the Sewol ferry boat tragedy when the people around her that are supposed to implement it are all taking bribes if the allegations are true:

Sung, the chairman of Keangnam Enterprises, died in an apparent suicide after leaving the list.

Although President Park ordered the prosecution to conduct a thorough investigation into the graft scandal, Sunday, Cheong Wa Dae has refrained from commenting on the issue.

In a bid to fight corruption, she vowed again Thursday that anyone who is found to be involved in any illicit activities will face the consequences without exception.

Park’s biggest political hurdle would appear to be the besieged prime minister, because Lee is leading the government’s ambitious anti-corruption campaign.

The Kyunghyang Shinmun, which interviewed Sung hours before his death, reported Tuesday that the businessman said he had given Lee 30 million won ($27,000) during the 2013 by-elections, when Lee ran for a parliamentary seat representing Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province.

Park has set her sights on fighting graft as part of strengthening her control because the April 16, 2014 sinking of the ferry Sewol, which hit her administration hard, was blamed on collusive ties between ferry operators, regulators and politicians.

In addition, Park’s plans to reform the debt-heavy pension system for civil servants and the stiff labor market are also expected to hit a snag amid intensifying political attacks from opposition parties. The processing of economy-related bills pending before the National Assembly is also not on the cards in the short-term.  [Korea Times]

You can read the rest at the link, but I don’t understand why the Korean politicians don’t just legalize bribery and just call it campaign contributions like how the US political system works.