Finish the investigation quicklyThe prosecution’s summoning of major corporate leaders for investigations is gaining momentum ahead of former President Park Geun-hye’s appearance Tuesday at the prosecutors’ office. On Saturday, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won was intensely investigated for 13 hours by a special investigation team on bribery charges. Chey underwent the probe for the second time since last November. Following Sunday’s investigation of the head of a subsidiary of Lotte Group, the prosecution is also weighing an investigation into CJ Group.
Public criticism and sympathy arose at the same time over the fate of chaebol heads after the arrest of Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics. No doubt it is right for the prosecution to punish business leaders even if they were pressured by the Blue House to donate money in return for favors in a corporate merger, permission of duty-free shops and other for-profit businesses. Also, the prosecution will surely be tempted to obtain decisive evidence of their potential collusion with Park ahead of its first-ever face-to-face investigation of the former president.
But there are concerns too. If the prosecution protracts on investigations of local conglomerates, it will only aggravate their financial hardships, as clearly seen in their remarkably slowed business activities since the unprecedented abuse of power scandal involving Park and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.
What attracts our particular attention is Lotte Group. The fifth-largest local conglomerate has been under heavy fire from the prosecution since the launch of the Park administration in 2013. Group leaders have to appear at criminal trials from today over cases separate from their potential involvement in the scandal. In addition, the conglomerate is shaking to a dangerous level after China’s methodical retaliations for its offering of a plot of land as the site for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system.
While the head of Korea’s largest conglomerate is behind bars, chairmen of the third and fifth largest corporations are banned from overseas trips. That alone has a huge impact on their reputations. No one is above the law. Yet it would be too much to expect economic recovery when their businesses are restricted.
We hope our corporate leaders deeply reflect on their mistakes and that the special investigation team also does not make the mistake of burning the house to roast the pig. We urge the prosecution to keep their promise that they will wrap up the investigation within the month.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 20, Page 30