Friday, August 25, 2017

Rotten in Seoul

Samsung's Lee Jae-yong (이재용 often "Jay Y. Lee") will undergo a sentencing hearing later today in Seoul for assorted counts of corruption. It's being widely argued his conviction could be costly for both the company & for Korea.

Surely corruption has been part of the system under the previous regime of former President Park Geun-hye. And it's highly probable systemic corruption was rife in Korean political economy from long before that as well. Samsung's Lee Jae-yong is somewhat unfortunate to have been nabbed at a time of transition.

But this case is nasty because of both criminal detail and lack of remorse. Among other transgressions, Samsung secured an expensive show horse in Europe for Korean President Park's buddy's daughter (정유라), and then attempted to hide details when the purchase was linked to administrative oversight of Samsung's corporate amalgamation favoring Mr. Lee.

Claiming aides and associates were wholly responsible for any transgressions, Lee has thus far evaded all responsibility in these affairs.

President Park was vindictive and anti-democratic. She interfered in the livelihood of thousands of artists and entertainers by reportedly placing them on a blacklisted enemies list (link). Her right-wing government declared the 60,000-member Korean Teachers’ & Education Workers’ Union (KTU) illegal (link), and systematically sought to destroy it.

Who were the strategists forcing Park's dark right-wing regressive agenda?

Park was partly propped-up by her crony Choi Soon-sil (최순실). But corporations such as Samsung also supported the regime, and perhaps steered it. Others may be at least partly responsible... What did Yankee know and when did they know it? America's key position in Korea requires knowledge of all such dirt.

Are there any lessons here that might be relevant to the corrupt overlap of business & politics now developing around Donald J. Trump and his family? As Korea moves forward toward more transparency, America becomes more opaque -- allowing collusive relationships to take root.

It may be Lee & Samsung had little choice but to payoff President Park and her cronies. Lee's defense, that he's a poor little rich boy who knew nothing, is incredible. In Korea, gestation adds a year to one's age - he's 50 years old. He studied at Seoul National University (backdoor admission?), Japan's Keio University for a Master's degree, and Harvard Business School. Few Korean people will believe he's absolutely uninvolved & innocent. Let's hope the search for justice finds proper answers, but long-suffering Koreans know: the innocent often suffer most.