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Tycoons summoned to be questioned in 'donation scandal'

A number of South Korea's tycoons, including Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, have been or will be summoned by prosecutors for questioning about their companies' cash donations to two dubious foundations controlled by President Park Geun-hye's scandal-ridden confidante Choi Soon-sil, prosecution sources said Sunday.

The sources said prosecutors will summon and question Lee, the heir apparent of Samsung Group, and LG Group Chairman Koo Bon-moo on Sunday at the earliest for questioning about their separate one-on-one meetings with the president in Seoul in July last year, which led to their massive donations to the two foundations later.

Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo, Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn and SK SUPEX Council Chairman Kim Chang-geun underwent questioning at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, prosecutors said without elaborating.

In addition, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin and CJ Group Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik are expected to be summoned by prosecutors.

Prosecutors reportedly questioned the leaders of Hyundai Motor, Hanwha and SK groups to find out how their one-on-one meetings were arranged after their collective meeting with the president at Cheong Wa Dae on July 24 last year and what was discussed at the meetings.

At the group meeting held over lunch, Park called on 17 local conglomerate leaders to extend support to the creation of the Mir and K-Sports foundations, which she stressed were aimed at promoting the spread of "hallyu," or the Korean wave, and Korean entertainment content abroad.

Park reportedly met separately with seven of them the following day at Cheong Wa Dae and other locations.

The seven firms, including Samsung, LG, Hyundai and SK, donated a combined 77.4 billion won (US$67.4 million) to the Mir and K-Sports foundations set up to promote Korean culture abroad, and less popular sports and athletes.

Samsung donated 20.4 billion won to the two foundations, followed by Hyundai Motor with 12.8 billion won, SK with 11.1 billion won, LG with 7.8 billion won and Hanwha with 2.5 billion won.

In the massive corruption scandal, Choi allegedly used her four-decade relationship with Park to coerce local businesses into donating large sums to the two dubious organizations that she was suspected of using for personal gain. On Nov. 3, Choi was formally put under arrest on charges of fraud and abuse of power.

Despite two public apologies by the president since the scandal erupted last month, her approval rating plunged to a record-low 5 percent, according to local pollster Gallup Korea.

On Saturday, over 1 million people took to the streets in central Seoul to demand Park's resignation over the growing scandal. Prosecutors plan to start an investigation of the president as early as this week.  (Yonhap) 

  

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