All talk, some action?

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All talk, some action?

The entire founding family of the Lotte Group empire has come under a prosecution probe. The investigation will be closely watched to judge how serious prosecutors are about corruption in business since probes of major chaebols and the dynastic families usually end up as all talk, no action.

Investigators from the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office began poring over documents and files they seized from the group’s headquarters and subsidiaries and began summoning corporate executives and employees.

They have already accumulated enough evidence to charge Shin Young-ja, the eldest daughter of group founder Shin Kyuk-ho, with abuse of authority over selecting shops in Lotte outlets until 2013. Prosecutors also will be investigating allegations about the group’s lobbying to win the license to erect its 123-story tower in Jamsil-dong, southern Seoul.

Lotte has been in the headlines since Shin’s two sons publicly brawled over management control of the group. Their family feud went to the courts and their father even had to take a psychological test to prove his sanity.

The group had been questioned about how it was able to land a license for the Lotte World Tower and expand its duty-free business under President Lee Myung-bak. Any chaebol irregularities and excesses through abuses of money and influence must be strictly punished.

But the extensive probe has suspicious timing since it coincides with President Park Geun-hye entering the latter stage of her term and the launch of a legislature in which her party has lost its majority.

The boisterous and high-profile prosecution activity could reinforce the power of the presidential office and draw loyalty from conglomerates fearing similar scrutiny as well as covering up controversies over two former and current prosecution chiefs.

Some accuse the ruling power of trying to seek a breakthrough in its waning authority by laying the blame on former conservative forces. Prosecutors must prove that they are not merely acting for political reasons. Speed is essential in special investigations. Prosecutors must expedite the probe so the Lotte case does not end up like another Posco probe, which lost a lot of steam with the investigation dragging on for eight months.

Our economic conditions are poor, worsened by corporate restructuring. If prosecutors add to the woes with an exhibitionist corporate probe, their credibility would be completely lost.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 13, Page 30.
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