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Pension fund chief detained for favoring Samsung merger

The National Pension Service’s head Moon Hyung-pyo was brought into custody Wednesday by the independent counsel team on suspicion of having pressured the pension fund to support the Samsung merger deal last year when he was the welfare minister.

The special investigation team said it detained the former Welfare Minister Moon, who was summoned Tuesday, on charges of abusing his power to back the merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in July of last year.

The controversial merger helped Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and his family, who had had a 42.2 percent stake of Cheil, gain a 30 percent stake of Samsung Group’s de facto holding firm Samsung C&T.

The special investigative team suspects that Moon had pressured the NPS on instructions from former presidential aides An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong. 

The National Pension Service’s head Moon Hyung-pyo
The National Pension Service’s head Moon Hyung-pyo

The investigators’ claims were heightened by fresh testimony from former head of the NPS’ asset management division Hong Wan-sun, who was summoned Monday and Tuesday.

During the investigation, Hong reportedly recanted his earlier testimony and said he was pressured by a senior official of the Welfare Ministry to back the deal. Four days before the NPS cast a vote in support of the Samsung merger, Hong had privately met with Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong.

As the investigation is pointing more toward the Blue House, speculation is surfacing concerning President Park Geun-hye on her alleged peddling of influence that is deemed to have caused the public pension fund to suffer huge losses, opposition lawmakers claimed.

“The ongoing investigation clearly shows the President Park should take the blame for the losses of the NPS, which is responsible for public retirement,” said Rep. Lee Jae-jeong of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea.

By Shin Ji-hye (