Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The advantage of being rich and famous in Korea

If you are rich in Korea, everything is forgiven! Even if you drive your company bankrupt and run away like a coward, or cheat your shareholders and evade taxes, you will eventually be pardoned. The trick is to lay low for about a year and come back on the public stage, lecturing others on how to make Korea a great nation...
Take former Daewoo Group Chairman Kim Woo-choong. He was on the list for the Interpol when he was in exile, because of how he left the company with insurmountable debt.
He was arrested soon after he returned to South Korea on June 14, 2005, and apologized "for hurting the nation and accepted full responsibility for the collapse of the group, adding he is ready to accept whatever the authorities have in store for him." In May 2006 he was sentenced to 10 years in jail after being found guilty of charges including embezzlement and accounting fraud. 21 trillion won ($22bn) of his fortune was seized and he was fined an additional 10m won. On 30 December 2007, he was granted amnesty by President Roh Moo-hyun.
Now he is back, and in style. Lecturing Daewoo employees (the very people whom he cheated) on how to make Korea an enormous power!

He spoke on Monday about the need to usher in a new generation of talented workers at a ceremony marking the 43th anniversary of the defunct conglomerate.
It was the 74-year-old founder’s first public appearance since a similar event held a year ago and only his second in the past decade.
“Koreans are the best in the world,” he told a crowd of Daewoo executives and employees gathered for the ceremony. “If we can train 200,000 people to become someone like me, Korea would be an enormous power.”
Kim was enthusiastic during his short speech, though he walked into the hall at the Millennium Hilton Hotel - which used to belong to the group - near Mount Namsan with the help of aides who held his arms. Toward the end of the ceremony, Kim unexpectedly snatched away the microphone from a person at the podium leading the crowd in singing what was the company’s trademark song.
“Let’s meet again in seven years for the 50th anniversary of Daewoo,” Kim said. “Next time we all should bring our family. I’ll empty my wallet to raise money for that.”
Then of course there is the de facto Emperor of Korea- Lee Kun-hee.
In early 2008, his home and office were raided by the Korean police for an ongoing probe into accusations that Samsung is responsible for a slush fund used to bribe influential prosecutors, judges, and political figures in South Korea. After the second round of questioning by the South Korean prosecutors , he was quoted by reporters saying "I am responsible for everything. I will assume full moral and legal responsibility.” On April 21, he officially resigned as Chairman & CEO of Samsung Group, and stated: "We, including myself, have caused troubles to the nation with the special probe; I deeply apologize for that, and I'll take full responsibility for everything, both legally and morally."
It did not take long for the Seoul Central District Court to find him guilty on charges of financial wrongdoing and tax evasion. Prosecutors requested that Lee be sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $347 million. The court fined him $109 million and sentenced him to 3 years suspended jail time.
On December 29, 2009, President Lee Myung-bak pardoned him.
As president Lee publicly stated: “In order to win the bid for the Winter Olympics in 2018 at Pyeongchang, which is making a bid for the third time, sports and business circles as well as Gangwon residents have strongly appealed that his role as a member of the International Olympic Committee is crucial. I decided to grant a pardon for the sake of national interest.”
Now he is back, and in style!
Mr. Lee, who is 68 years old, will return as chairman of the manufacturer of memory chips, cellphones and TVs, the company said Wednesday morning. However, Mr. Lee will not be on the company's board, which has a separate chairman, a spokesman said. Instead, he will retake a title in keeping with the tradition of South Korean family-led companies.
The move opens a new chapter in Samsung's long effort to balance its desire to keep control in the hands of its founding family while also permitting professional management with enough oversight by directors to be acceptable to a broad group of investors.
October 29, 2007 -- Kim Yong-chul, a former in-house lawyer with Samsung Group, reveals during a press conference the existence of some 5 billion won (US$4.4 million) in secret funds held by the group.
January 10, 2008 -- A special prosecutorial team, led by Cho Joon-woong, is launched to investigate allegations involving the secret funds held by Samsung Group.
April 17, 2008 -- Prosecutors indict Chairman Lee on charges of breach of trust and tax evasion involving dubious bond transactions allegedly aimed at transferring wealth to his only son Jae-yong.
April 22, 2008 -- Chairman Lee steps down from his post after being convicted of tax evasion, while Samsung Group unveils a plan to reshuffle its management in order to enhance transparency.
July 16, 2008 -- A Seoul court hands down a three-year jail term for Lee and a five-year suspended prison sentence with a fine of 110 billion won.
December 29, 2009 -- The government grants Lee a special pardon, saying that as a member of the International Olympic Committee he will be able to help win the nation's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
March 24, 2010 -- Lee returns as chairman of South Korea's biggest company, Samsung Electronics, 23 months after his resignation.
Just 23 months and he's back!
While we are at it, let us not forget Chung Mong-koo,chairman of Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, the second-largest Chaebol in South Korea.
In 2006, he and his family were targeted by the Seoul Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office as part of an investigation into embezzling 100 billion won ($106 million USD) from Hyundai to create slush funds. Despite a travel ban, Chung left South Korea in April 2006. Chung was arrested on 28 April 2006 on charges related to embezzlement and other corruption. He was convicted of embezzlement and breach of fiduciary duty on 5 February 2007 and sentenced to three years of prison. He remained free on bail while he appealed the sentence. On September 6, 2007, Chief judge Lee Jae-Hong ruled to suspend the sentence of Chung Mong-koo (in consideration of the huge economic impact of imprisonment), ordering instead of a 3-year jail term, the performance of community service and a $1 billion donation to charity.
Then again, there is Kim Seung Youn, Hanwha Group chairman, who punched Room Saloon workers after they got into a fight with his son.


Anonymous said...

Ouch! Fined 10 millon won... whew...

Just kidding... that should read dollars, I'm guessing.

Google says 21 trillion won is closer to 18 billion....

SeoulBuffoon said...

No. He was fined just 10 million won.