SEOUL – On January 16th 2017, it was revealed by the Choi Soon-sil Gate prosecutors that they filed charges against Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong for bribing President Park Geun-hye. The South Korean multinational company, of course, did insist on Samsung’s de facto heir Lee’s innocence, as he himself spoke of having been coerced by President Park into contributing funds in cooperation with Choi Soon-sil. However, Lee still ended up being questioned by prosecutors for 22 hours. Moreover, prosecutors seeked to have Lee detained for potential perjury and bribery.
According to the Choi-gate prosecutors, Lee paid 36 million US dollars (43,000 billion Korean won) to entities owned by Choi-Soon sil, including Mir foundation and K Sports foundation, through government affairs in exchange for full support of inter-subsidiary mergers within his multinational company. However, despite the issuance of this arrest warrant, the district court was not in favor of the prosecutors. The court rejected the warrant, claiming that there was insufficient evidence for charging Lee with bribery.
As for what the public has to say about this incident, many were seen to be appalled by this warrant rejection. Numerous Korean internet users disagreed with the court’s decision, saying that whether Samsung perishes or not, it is necessary to punish those who have committed illegal action (in reference to Lee). Many displayed discouragement. They spoke of the nation no longer being able to trust the South Korean judiciary system as well as Samsung. A few mentioned this was South Korea’s last chance to expose chaebols, or large, family-run conglomerates, as Lee’s arrest could prove fatal for Samsung, but overlooking possible corruption could prove fatal for the country.
Although chief Lee Jae-Yong managed to get away without being arrested, it is estimated that this scandal will negatively affect South Korea’s economy as a whole, reemphasizing the heavy influence this single ‘chaebol’ has on an entire country. Prosecutors have claimed this result to be “very regrettable,” but also that they will continue working towards reissuing a warrant, according to spokesman Lee Kyu-chul.
– Leona Maruyama (‘17)