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Parties to grill Lotte Group head next week

Rival parties on Thursday agreed to summon Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin as a witness during an audit session next week, ending weeks of partisan wrangling over the opposition party‘s demand to reveal the dubious web of corporate governance.

The ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy have also agreed to question 41 businessmen who will testify before lawmakers at the audit session.

At the audit session on Sept. 17, lawmakers are expected to question Lotte‘s governance structure. Lotte has been embroiled in an infamous family feud between Shin and his brother over the control of South Korea’s retail giant.

In a statement on Thursday, Lotte confirmed Shin’s attendance to the audit, saying he would fully cooperate with the audit and prepare for the session with “due diligence.”

“Lotte, which has vowed to implement the reform to the governance structure, should take (the audit) as an opportunity to dispel the public’s anger and distrust over the company,” said Rep. Kang Gi-jung of the NPAD. 

Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin responds to reporters' question
Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin responds to reporters' question

Both parties also agreed to summon the chiefs of Naver and Daum, South Korea’s major Internet portals, to question whether they have violated the rule of political neutrality in political affairs by arbitrarily changing headlines or arranging news to sway voters in favor of opposition parties.

Meanwhile, lawmakers clashed over the witness list for an upcoming parliamentary inquiry into the government’s response to the Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak that claimed dozens of lives and caused public fear over the nation’s disease quarantine system.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy demanded that the list include those high-profile government officials who were tasked with handling the MERS outbreak, while the ruling Saenuri Party rejected the offer and claimed the officials already explained themselves during the previous hearings.

NPAD lawmakers urged former Health and Welfare Minister Moon Hyung-pyo and senior presidential advisers to attend the special probe and testify before lawmakers about the government’s poor response in the early stages of the outbreak. The probe will take place on Sept. 22.

“Considering the magnitude of the MERS outbreak that has fueled public fears, Cheong Wa Dae should come forward and tell (the lawmakers) exactly what measures they took during the outbreak,” said NPAD lawmaker Rep. Rhee Mok-hee.

But the ruling Saenuri Party dismissed the call as an unnecessary attempt to grill government officials.

“The previous parliamentary committee has already got to the bottom of (the MERS outbreak). Moon also left the post after giving us full explanations,” said Rep. Moon Jeong-lim of the ruling party.

By Yeo Jun-suk (