Park’s paper trail grows longer, more detailed

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Park’s paper trail grows longer, more detailed

Documents left behind by the Park Geun-hye administration seem to confirm it tried to help Samsung Group engineer a shift of power from one generation to the next, a Blue House announcement showed Thursday. They have been offered to an independent counsel investigating the abuse of power and corruption scandal involving the impeached former president and Samsung.

Presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun announced the gist of several documents left behind in the Blue House when the president was forced out in March. It was the third announcement about a paper trail that keeps growing.

The first announcement was made on Friday about 300 documents discovered earlier this month. A second briefing took place Monday in which the Blue House said another 1,361 documents were discovered in the state affairs situation office, which used to be occupied by the planning secretary of the policy coordination senior secretary during the Park administration. At that briefing, the contents of 254 records were described.

Thursday’s briefing was about 504 documents from the second batch. Park said the documents were dated from March 2014 till October 2016.

According to Park, one document was titled “Direction of the National Pension Service’s exercise of voting rights about Samsung C&T Corporation merger.” Other documents discovered were titled “Review of domestic companies’ measures to defend management rights against overseas hedge funds” and “Controversy over the argument to introduce the management right defense mechanism and review of the government position.”

The documents appeared to be pertinent to the ongoing bribery trials of the former president, her friend Choi Soon-sil and Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong. Lee was prosecuted on charges of bribing Park and Choi in return for a crucial vote by the government-run National Pension Service to support a controversial merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in 2015. Park and Choi are also undergoing a separate but related trial for receiving bribes.

The $8 billion merger played a key role in the third-generation transfer of control of Samsung by solidifying Lee’s grip on Samsung Electronics. Defeating a campaign by a U.S. hedge fund, Elliott Management Corp, to block the planned merger, shareholders of Samsung C&T approved its takeover by Cheil Industries on July 17, 2015.

The National Pension Service was the largest shareholder of Samsung C&T.

“The documents discussed whether or not the government should intervene in the voting right exercise of the National Pension Service,” Park said, “and what would be the direction of exercising the voting right if the government did intervene.”

According to Park, the documents said the National Pension Service should be actively used against overseas hedge funds’ aggressive attempts to interfere in management rights, but the initiatives should be carried out prudently in order to avoid the perception that the government was supporting conglomerates. All government ministries were ordered to give a united response, he said.

“The [Park] Blue House also appeared to have led a plan to propagate a certain ideology,” the spokesman said, referring to the administration’s systemic support for conservative activists. One of the documents discussing current affairs from April to June 2015 included plans to activate a program to support conservative commentators, increase financial support for conservative groups and foster youth and overseas conservative groups, he said.

A record of a senior secretariat meeting hosted by the chief of staff in July 2015 also reviewed a plan to actively support funds linked to newly established youth conservative groups.

Some documents also concerned the Park administration’s conflicts with the Seoul Metropolitan Government headed by Mayor Park Won-soon of the Democratic Party. “The [Park] Blue House appeared to have devised measures against the city,” the spokesman said.

A report on the city’s plan to give monthly cash allowances to unemployed or underemployed young adults said the government should penalize the city government by reducing central government grants.

Park said the Blue House will hand over copies of the documents to the independent counsel after its analysis is complete. Originals will be sent to the Presidential Archives, he said.

He also denied the conservative Liberty Korea Party’s criticisms that the Moon administration is making public the documents in order to influence ongoing investigations and trials.

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

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