Man caught tailing CJ Group head
“On Feb. 21, we caught the man who had tailed Chairman Lee for days,” CJ Group said. “We got into a car accident, reported it to the police, and found out that the man was an employee of Samsung E&C.”
The business group filed an official police report with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency yesterday. They reported the Samsung employee, identified by his surname Kim, to the police for possible obstruction of duties, and also demanded that Samsung Group issue “a responsible and sincere explanation and apology,” indicating that it suspects Kim didn’t act on his own.
According to CJ Group’s allegations, Chairman Lee’s driver felt that they were being followed on Thursday of last week. They spotted Kim and other cars tailing Chairman Lee to his office, engagements, as well as his residence in the next several days.
On Monday, Chairman Lee’s entourage made sure that they had closed-circuit television footage capturing Kim near Chairman Lee’s residence as evidence. The next day they intentionally caused a car accident with Kim to stop the tailing.
On such claims, Samsung Group declined to make an official comment, passing the responsibility to Samsung E&C. Samsung E&C - a construction arm of Samsung Group - said that Kim passed by Chairman Lee’s residence several times because he was involved with a construction project nearby. Still, most observers strongly believe there’s more to the incident.
For starters, many believe this has to do something with the ongoing inheritance battle between Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee and his older brother Lee Maeng-hee. The elder Lee is the father of CJ Group Chairman Lee Jae-hyun.
On Feb. 14, Lee Maeng-hee - the eldest son of the Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chull - filed an inheritance suit against Lee Kun-hee, saying he should share in a large number of stocks he claimed the Samsung head secretly incorporated into his assets.
In the suit, the older Lee is demanding at least 717 billion won ($613 million) from Lee Kun-hee. And sources say Samsung might have been trying to keep tabs on CJ Group - which is the de facto contact point for the older Lee who is staying in Beijing - to gain leverage in the ongoing legal tussle.
Another implication of this incident is the years-long rift between the two business conglomerates.
With Lee Kun-hee chosen as the heir to the Samsung Group, not the elder Lee, Samsung Group spun off CJ Group in 1994 - giving the control of CJ Group to the elder Lee’s family.
Since then the two groups have been in a power struggle, mostly as Samsung tried to keep CJ in check.
In 1994, while the spin-off was in process, Lee Kun-hee set up a CCTV camera on his Hannam-dong residence so he could monitor who goes in and out of CJ Group Chairman Lee Jae-hyun’s house, which was nearby. It caused enough controversy that the camera was eventually removed.
Last year, after CJ tendered the bid for the acquisition of Korea Express, Samsung SDS also jumped in to the race, prompting market suspicion that this it was also a sign of the rift. Samsung eventually pulled out and CJ acquired the delivery company.
By Kim Hyung-eun [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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