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.

Ban Ki-Moon Poll Numbers Fail to Rise Due to Corruption Allegations

What gets me about the corruption allegations against Ban Ki-moon is that there is no evidence to prove them, but anonymous sources to the media:

Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put in an all-out effort to refute bribery allegations that he took $230,000 from a local businessman over two occasions in 2005 and 2007 as his approval rating remained in second place despite his return to the country and a promotion tour.

Former Saenuri lawmaker Park Min-sik, who acts as a virtual spokesman for the 72-year-old lifelong diplomat, held a press conference at the National Assembly on Monday, denying charges that Ban had taken the money from Park Yeon-cha, former chairman of the Taekwang Company who was convicted of bribery in a separate case.

In an attempt to prove Ban’s innocence, Park disclosed his diary, in which the former foreign minister harshly criticized the businessman for acting “so rude.”

Park first refuted a report by the Sisa Journal which said Ban and Park had met at Ban’s residence on May 3 in 2005 one hour before a scheduled welcome dinner for the Vietnamese foreign minister who was visiting Seoul at the time. The report said Ban received $200,000 in a shopping bag during that time prior to the dinner gathering.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Ban Ki-Moon’s Brother Charged By US Authorities for Corruption

It seems like an unwritten law of South Korean politics that every politician has a relative involved in a corruption scandal:

As secretary general of the UN, Mr Ban has played a central role in international politics and diplomatic negotiations

US prosecutors have charged relatives of former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with conspiracy to bribe a government official.

Mr Ban’s younger brother and his nephew stand accused of offering money to a Middle Eastern official, through an American middleman.

They allege the two men bribed the official to use state funds to buy their building project.

Mr Ban served as UN secretary general from 2007 until 2016.

He was succeeded by former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres on 1 January 2017. Mr Ban is now being seen as a possible future president in his home country of South Korea. [BBC]

You can read more at the link.

President Park Denies All Allegations of Wrong Doing and Corruption

It looks like if the ROK authorities want to prove President Park Geun-hye committed corruption they better find the evidence because she is not admitting to any wrong doing; likewise in regards to her actions during the Sewol ferry boat disaster:

President Park Geun-hye denied, Sunday, all allegations leveled against her regarding her mysterious whereabouts during the sinking of the Sewol and the corruption and influence-peddling scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-sil.

Park held an unscheduled press conference at Cheong Wa Dae _ her first public appearance since she was impeached, Dec. 9 _ and she used the 50-minute meeting to dismiss allegations surrounding her as “unfair and absurd.”

Park stressed that she was on “normal duty” on the day of the Sewol sinking on April 16, 2014, dismissing allegations of her unknown whereabouts for seven hours as groundless rumors.

“First it was reported that I was having an affair with someone, and then I was engaged in an exorcism ritual. Then it was about me undergoing cosmetic surgery. It was utterly, utterly senseless,” she said.

“I’m sure to say that I was receiving reports on the tragic accident and keeping an eye on it as usual routine.”

She continued, “I ordered that rescuers should not miss any single person left behind through a thorough rescue operation, but then there was a report saying all have been rescued, which made me feel relieved. After it turned out to be false, I intended to head to the emergency measures headquarters immediately. But the security team delayed it. I rushed to the place as soon as everything was ready. I think I did whatever I had to do.”

Park denied the allegation that she had a beauty treatment on the day, saying, “It is totally not true. It is impossible to happen even from a commonsense point of view.”

She added that she did not meet anyone from outside Cheong Wa Dae except a hairdresser and someone who brought medicine for her neck.

She reiterated that she did not seek any personal interest or favor certain companies or figures, refuting charges of collusion with Choi, who is accused of having illegitimately meddled in state affairs and extorting tens of millions of dollars from conglomerates.

She repudiated the bribery allegations that Samsung made a large sum of donations to the two foundations controlled by Choi in return for the presidential office’s support of the conglomerate’s controversial merger of two Samsung units _ Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries. [Korea Times]

You can read the rest at the link.

Korean Lawmaker Proposes New Law that Would Give Death Penalty for Military Corruption

At least one ROK lawmaker wants to get really serious about preventing ROK military corruption:

Rep. Sin Sang-jin of the ruling Saenuri Party.

Rep. Sin Sang-jin of the ruling Saenuri Party.

– A lawmaker from the ruling Saenuri Party proposed a new bill on Thursday to classify military-related corruption as a form of aiding and abetting the enemy, paving the way for courts to hand out stricter punishment including the death penalty.

Under South Korean law, any action benefiting the enemy can land a person in jail for at least five years, with more serious offences leading to capital punishment.

“Irregularities in the military have an adverse impact on national defense that leads directly to the safety of the people,” Rep. Sin Sang-jin said, adding the existing system cannot sufficiently root out military-related corruption due to ineffective punishment.  [Yonhap]

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.

Restaurant Industry In Seoul Faces Major Losses with Implementation of Anti-Corruption Bill

If restaurants are lowering prices as well as closing down due to the new anti-corruption law just how many public servants are being bought off each day with free meals in Seoul?:

wtf image

The implementation of a controversial anti-corruption law is scaring the retail and restaurant industries, who fear that gifts and free meals will become illegal.

The so-called Kim Young-ran law, named for a former Supreme Court Justice and Chairwoman of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission who inspired it, was promulgated and signed by President Park Geun-hye in March 2015 and will be implemented from September 28. It forbids people in a range of professions from accepting meals that cost over 30,000 won ($26), gifts valued over 50,000 won and cash payments over 100,000 won.

Public officials fall under the law but also teachers, professors and even journalists. They are considered “public” professions by the lawmakers who passed the bill.

“A lunch menu at our Chinese restaurant is priced at 39,500 won,” said Oh Hee-jin, a manger at the Ritz-Carlton Seoul. “We are looking into lowering this to 30,000 won.”

Lotte Department Store is looking at reducing the size of gift sets to get their price tags below 50,000 won each.

But lowering prices is not a viable option for everyone.

“Hotels are supposed to take pride in providing the best services and food,” said a manager at the Shilla Hotel. “We can’t do that anymore if we start lowering prices on everything.”

Some restaurant owners are closing stores altogether. Some 30 vacant sites in Insa-dong, central Seoul, were once restaurants.

“Since April, restaurants have been closing one after another,” said a real estate agent near Insa-dong. “Restaurant owners used to rent space and pay a 200 million won premium. Now they won’t sign a deal even when I’ve lowered the premium to just 100 million won.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but it is interesting that a private sector employee like a journalist is able to fall under this bill and be considered a public profession.  I am surprised no one in the media has challenged this law yet.

Corruption Investigations Cause High Number of Suicides in Korea

Corruption investigations have led to a large number of Koreans killing themselves to include 15 people so far this year:

white envelope

The apparent suicide of a researcher after being interrogated about defense corruption is shedding light on prosecutorial investigations that lead to suicides of suspects or witnesses.

A 43-year-old senior researcher, surnamed Kim, who worked at weapons supplier LIG Nex1 was found dead Monday on the ground outside an apartment building in Osan, Gyeonggi. He was living in an apartment on the 23rd floor. The police are investigating how he died.

Kim was questioned by a joint government investigative team on defense ministry corruption led by prosecutors, military prosecutors, the Board of Audit and Inspection and the National Tax Service. Prosecutors suspected his involvement in corruption regarding the development of Hyeongung, a mid-range personal guided missile.  (…….)

According to New Politics Alliance for Democracy Rep. Lee Sang-min, the number of people who committed suicide after being questioned by the prosecution, either as suspects or witnesses, was 79 between 2010 and June this year. Last year, 21 people committed suicide, and 15 died this year up to June.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read the rest at the link.