Chaebol in FKI scandal destroyed documents

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Chaebol in FKI scandal destroyed documents

Opposition lawmakers’ suspicion that the nation’s largest business lobby group’s abrupt decision to terminate two nonprofit foundations was an attempt to cover up a larger scandal appeared to be substantiated, as media reported that conglomerates that donated to the institutions have destroyed relevant records.

The Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) said Friday that it will dismantle the Mi-R Foundation and the K-Sports Foundation and create a new cultural and sports foundation. Associates of the president were accused of being involved in the groups’ creation and operation.

Within two days of its launch in October, the Mi-R Foundation collected 48.6 billion won ($44.02 million) from 19 conglomerates, including Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK and LG. The K-Sports Foundation raised 38 billion won within six days of its launch in January.

Opposition lawmakers have said Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of President Park Geun-hye, used her influence over the creation and operation of the foundations. They also accused An Chong-bum, presidential senior secretary for policy coordination, for having strong-armed conglomerates to donate.

Critics condemned the FKI’s move as an attempt to destroy evidence.

According to JTBC, a broadcasting network of the JoongAng Ilbo, the Mi-R Foundation sent a document to a conglomerate in December to attend a meeting to discuss the foundation’s plans. The 19 companies that contributed as co-founders were asked to attend.

Rep. Back Hye-ryun of the opposition Minjoo Party asked the companies to submit records, based on the document, but most of them said the records were misplaced or they had not kept them in the archives.

The companies that donated to the K-Sports Foundation also replied similarly about the requests to present relevant records.

The Hankyoreh also reported that a conglomerate that made large contributions to both foundations destroyed records on Wednesday.

“From the [upper management of the] group, a request was handed down that all records concerning donations and creations of the foundations should be destroyed,” an executive of the conglomerate was quoted in an interview with the newspaper on Friday. “Therefore, I and all workers used paper shredders to destroy print documents. We also deleted all concerned emails.”

The newspaper also suspected that the Mi-R Foundation systemically destroyed its records. A prosecution official said ordering the foundation workers to destroy the documents can bring charges of evidence destruction if it was done to prepare the foundation from an investigation.

Civic group Spec Watch Korea formally asked the prosecution to investigate the two foundations as well as Choi, An, Chairman Huh Chang-soo of the FKI and other business leaders. The prosecution hasn’t decide whether it will proceed with an investigation.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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