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[Newsmaker] Top court confirms suspended sentence for Lotte chief

South Korea’s top court on Thursday confirmed a suspended sentence for Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin for his involvement in a corruption scandal that removed former President Park Geun-hye from power in 2017.


The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that sentenced Shin to 2 1/2 years, suspended for four years, on charges including bribery, dereliction of duty and embezzlement.

Lotte Group said in a statement it will do its best to become a trusted company by contributing to the country and society, apologizing for causing concerns.

Shin was sent to trial on suspicions that he offered bribes in March 2016 in return for favors in the retail giant’s bid for a business license for its duty-free shop from the Park administration.

He contributed 7 billion won ($5.9 million) to the Mir and K-Sports foundations, allegedly controlled by Park’s confidante Choi Sun-sil, the jailed ex-president’s friend of 40 years. Prosecutors deemed the donations as bribes.

Shin was also indicted over suspicions that he caused financial loss worth 77 billion won to Lotte Group by giving a favorable deal to his family-controlled company. He was also tried over suspicions that he gave salary to the de facto wife and daughter of Shin Dong-joo, the eldest son of Lotte founder Shin Kyuk-ho and vice chairman of Japan-based Lotte Holdings, although they had no role in the company.

Shin’s father, Lotte founder Shin Kyuk-ho, who was indicted along with him on charges of dereliction of duty and embezzlement, was also convicted by the court. He was sentenced to three-year imprisonment with a penalty of 3 billion won.

The lower court sentenced Shin to 2 1/2 years in prison over the bribery charges, viewing the donations for the foundations as bribes. It sentenced him to one year and eight months in prison for the business irregularities.

The two cases were merged in the appeals court’s deliberations. The court also saw the donations as bribes, but it said that Shin had been pressured to offer the bribes to the former president, suspending his term and releasing him from jail. 

Park, who was impeached over the corruption scandal in December 2016 and dismissed from the presidency in March 2017, was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay a penalty of 20 billion won by a high court.

The Supreme Court, however, called for a retrial, saying her bribery charges should be tried separately from other charges. Her case is now pending at the high court.

By Ock Hyun-ju (