Sam­sung heir’s jail­ing au­gurs well for re­forms

Unprecedented sentence seen as be­gin­ning of end to grip of chae­bols

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - World -

took to the streets to de­mand pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye’s ouster over a bur­geon­ing cor­rup­tion scan­dal, their anger was di­rected al­most as much at the com­pa­nies that paid her se­cret con­fi­dante Choi Soon-sil as at her.

Af­ter Park’s im­peach­ment and dis­missal, new pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in won a sweep­ing elec­tion vic­tory cam­paign­ing on a plat­form of re­form.

Sam­sung is by far the big­gest of the chae­bols, with its rev­enues equiv­a­lent to around a fifth of the coun­try’s GDP.

Lee Jae-yong’s fa­ther, who re­mains Sam­sung chair­man, was pre­vi­ously con­victed of bribery, tax and other of­fenses him­self, and the scion’s grand­fa­ther also had brushes with the law, but nei­ther was ever jailed.

Chae­bol lead­ers have reg­u­larly en­joyed such priv­i­leges in the past, with tri­als end­ing in light or sus­pended sen­tences and courts cit­ing their con­tri­bu­tions to the econ­omy.

But im­pris­on­ing the vicechair­man of Sam­sung for five years — even though the sentence could be re­duced on ap­peal — shows that now no one is im­mune, the think­ing goes.

“The unprecedented jail­ing of the head of the coun­try’s most pow­er­ful chae­bol will serve as a cat­a­lyst for chang­ing the whole so­ci­ety,” said Chung Sun-sup, who runs spe­cial­ist web­site chae­bul.com.

There have been prom­ises of re­forms be­fore, from both sides of the po­lit­i­cal aisle, but they came to lit­tle.

For­mer Jus­tice Party law­maker Park Won-wuk blamed a lack of po­lit­i­cal will and re­sis­tance from the chae­bols, which warn of neg­a­tive con­se­quences for in­vest­ment and em­ploy­ment.

“No politi­cians have been re­ally free from col­lu­sive ties with chae­bols,” said Park. “But Moon, dif­fer­ently from his pre­de­ces­sors, owes no debts to chae­bols, and his top of­fi­cials in charge of chae­bol re­form are thor­oughly re­formist.

“Lee’s im­pris­on­ment shows they are down to busi­ness quite se­ri­ously this time.”

Cor­rup­tion re­mains “the sin­gle big­gest is­sue” in South Korea, Kelly said. The Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional watch­dog ranked South Korea 52nd out of 176 coun­tries in its per­cep­tions in­dex for last year.

ZOU ZHENG / XINHUA

Peo­ple take part in a “mud hero” event in Toronto, Canada, which con­sisted of 26 ob­sta­cles over a 10-kilo­me­ter course.

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