South Korean investigators on Tuesday raided the offices of Samsung Electronics, as part of a probe into alleged political corruption at the highest levels of that country’s government.
The administration of President Park Guen-hye – who is South Korea’s first female president, and the daughter of former President Park Chung-hee – has been rocked by allegations of influence peddling centered on a mysterious figure said to have influenced policy decisions in exchange for cash.
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Choi Soon-Sil, herself the daughter of cult leader Choi Tae-min, has been accused in local media reports of accepting almost $3.1 million for her daughter’s horseback riding lessons from a corporate donor.
Choi’s strange relationship with President Park is at the heart of the scandal, which has been dominating South Korean politics for weeks. Local media describe a Svengali-like dynamic between Choi – whose father was said to have major influence over Park’s father – and the president. The scandal broke in earnest when Park’s speeches were discovered on a tablet computer belonging to Choi, suggesting that Choi – who has no government or public policy experience – was editing Park’s speeches.
Park’s approval ratings have nose-dived to 5% as a result, according to Gallup, and she has taken the unprecedented step of allowing Parliament to select her next Prime Minister. Large-scale street protests in Seoul have called for her resignation.
The raid is the latest piece of bad news for Samsung in a month already brimming with them – the extensive debacle around the exploding Galaxy Note 7s has severely damaged the company’s reputation, and a recall of Samsung-built washing machines has added insult to injury.
Nor is it the first time that Samsung’s offices have been raided by South Korean authorities, as an article from Bloomberg points out – the company found itself under the microscope in 2008 as the appointment of a new head of several business units (Jay Y. Lee, coincidentally now the head of the unit in charge of the Note 7) was done legally.