Bribes in TV shopping networks to be probed

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Bribes in TV shopping networks to be probed

Prosecutors are looking into a case of an employee of a shopping channel getting kickbacks from companies to get their products on the air.

They are expanding their probe on the assumption that the practice is commonplace in the Korean home shopping network industry.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday it indicted a 32-year-old former merchandiser of a TV shopping channel for allegedly taking 420 million won ($374,900) in kickback since 2008 from seven companies that sell merchandise on TV.

“Merchandisers at shopping channels are in charge of selecting which goods get on the air and deciding whether to continue selling products, wielding considerable power for companies trying to sell their products via home-shopping,” said a prosecutor.

The merchandiser, who is surnamed Jeon, allegedly helped place products on what is considered “golden time” for shopping channels, the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The father of the merchandiser, a 52-year-old official at the Korea Food and Drug Administration, is also under investigation as prosecutors discovered suspicious deposits in his bank accounts.

“We are trying to find out whether those bank accounts were merely borrowed by his son and used to receive kickbacks from the lobbying groups,” said an official at the prosecution. “Or whether Jeon’s father also took bribes from interest groups by using his title as a director of the inspection team at the state body.”

The son quit his job as a merchandiser last July when the investigation began. Jeon’s father has been suspended from his job as a civil servant since last month.

The case began with doubts about the father. Prosecutors received letters from five CEOs of health supplements companies accusing the elder Jeon of taking bribes from their competitors. In his accounts, they found money from the seven companies that sell merchandise on TV.

By Moon Byung-joo, Kang Jin-kyu []
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