Prosecutor General nominee Yoon Seok-youl

Chaebol owners worry about chief prosecutor nominee

Earlier this week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in tapped Yoon Seok-youl to lead the country’s prosecution, thus causing mixed response from rival parties.

Opposition parties seem to be unhappy with the reformist prosecutor, who had got to the bottom of various allegations involving conservative politicians.

For example, the 58-year-old spearheaded investigation into an influence-peddling scandal in 2016, which eventually put former President Park Geun-hye behind bars.

Considering Yoon’s track record, it is understandable for some politicians to worry about Yoon’s nomination as prosecutor general. Along the same line, observers point out that tycoons would also have to sweat.

Unlike other judges and prosecutors, who were criticized for being too lenient to high-profile businessmen, Yoon has cracked down on corruption in the country’s family-controlled business groups called chaebol.

When Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo was arrested on charges of embezzling company money and creating a slush fund in 2006, Yoon led the probe.

Yoon was also behind the imprisonment of Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of Korea’s top conglomerate, back in 2017 related to former President Park’s scandal.

Yoon, who currently serves as the head of Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office, will go through a confirmation hearing in the National Assembly.

Under the relevant law, President Moon can appoint Yoon only after the procedure, but the liberal state head does not need to get parliamentary approval.

Yoon is expected to replace Moon Moo-il next month when the latter’s two-year term as top prosecutor comes to an end.

From the perspective of many chaebol owners, the timing could not be worse.

For one, Samsung’s two affiliates of Samsung BioLogics and Samsung Electronics’ after-sales unit will have to undergo trials.

The former is suspected of having not complied with accounting rules ahead of its 2016 listing while the latter is accused of having sabotaged its labor union.

If Samsung Vice Chairman Lee was involved in any of the two cases, Yoon is not likely to show any leniency to him.

Also facing ongoing or possible criminal charges are Hyosung Chairman Cho Hyun-joon and Kolon Chairman Lee Woong-yeol to name but a few.

Watchers say that such chaebol chiefs may have to sweat because of Yoon, who once vowed to “get rid of ‘owner risks’ for further development of Korean companies.”


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The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at voc200@gmail.com or 82-2-6956-6698.