Testimony says Woo was involved in Samsung deal

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Testimony says Woo was involved in Samsung deal

A prosecutor who worked in the Park Geun-hye Blue House testified in a courtroom on Tuesday that Woo Byung-woo, then secretary of civil affairs, had ordered him to review issues on the Samsung Group’s management succession.

Lee Young-sang of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office attended the trial of Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong on Tuesday as a witness of the independent counsel to prove bribery charges against the tycoon. The Samsung heir was indicted in February on charges of offering bribes worth 43 billion won ($38 million) to Park and her friend, Choi Soon-sil, in return for their help in solidifying his control over the country’s largest conglomerate.

Although the tycoon argued that Samsung was extorted to give the money, the independent counsel, which acts as the prosecution in the trial, said the money was in return for a crucial vote exercised by the state-run National Pension Service to support a controversial merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in 2015 that cemented Lee’s grip on Samsung Electronics.

After submitting recently discovered paper trails of the Park Blue House as new evidence regarding the impeached president’s support for the conglomerate’s generational power shift, the independent counsel team called the prosecutor as a witness. He was dispatched to work in the civil affairs secretary’s office of the Park Blue House from June 2014 to January 2016.

At the time, Woo was the civil affairs senior secretary.

He told the court that Woo ordered him to study the Samsung situation shortly after he joined the Blue House. He also admitted that he had authored two handwritten memos found in the Blue House and introduced as evidence. He said he wrote the memos to prepare a report on Samsung, and he does not know why Woo ordered him to do so.

The witness also said he did not contact Samsung when he created the memos.

The independent counsel presented the content of the memos to the court.

“Find out what Samsung needs in the management succession situation,” one of the memos also said. “Give support for what needs to be supported and find a way to lead Samsung to contribute more to the national economy.”

Prosecutor Lee agreed with the independent counsel’s argument that the memos were a draft of a Blue House report that Samsung is in need of a quick transition of management control from Chairman Lee Kun-hee to his son Jae-yong due to the chairman’s illness and that the government would help the process in return for contributions to the national economy.

He also testified that Woo ordered him to create the report and approved it. Asked if he made a policy decision based on his independent judgment, he said, “It was my role to take orders .?.?. I was not in a position to make a decision independently.”

The Supreme Court decided Tuesday that high-profile trials at district and high courts will be aired live. The decision will be up to the chief justice of the trial. The new regulation will be applied starting Aug. 1, and speculation is high that the trials of Samsung Vice Chairman Lee and former President Park will be aired live.

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