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Samsung ad unit exec grilled over influence-peddling scandal

All Headlines 14:36 December 29, 2016

SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Yonhap) -- A senior executive at the advertising affiliate of Samsung was questioned by investigators Thursday over allegations South Korea's largest business group gave undue favors to the family of President Park Geun-hye's friend who is at the center of a massive influence-peddling scandal.

Kim Jae-youl, the president of the sports business at Cheil Worldwide Inc., appeared before the independent counsel team's office in southern Seoul.

"I will fully cooperate (with the investigation)," he told reporters before entering the office, declining to comment further.

Kim is suspected of playing a key role in Samsung Electronics Co.'s funding of 1.62 billion won (US$1.34 million) for the Korea Winter Sports Elite Center, controlled by a niece of Park's friend Choi Soon-sil, between 2015 and earlier this year.

Choi, currently standing trial over a string of corruption charges, allegedly ordered her niece Chang Si-ho to set up the foundation to pocket profits through deals related to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, according to state prosecutors.

During a parliamentary hearing held earlier this month, Kim said he was under pressure after former Vice Sports Minister Kim Chong explained the sports center to him.

The ex-vice minister's attorney denied Kim pressured Samsung or discussed the center with Kim Jae-youl during the first preparatory hearing held at the Seoul Central District Court earlier in the day. The former vice minister was arrested and indicted for his alleged involvement in various crimes committed by Choi.

Investigators are expected to grill the executive over why the group decided to support the sports foundation and if it was in return for the state-run pension fund's backing of a major merger deal between Samsung's subsidiaries last year.

There have been allegations the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae pressured the state fund to support the controversial merger in return for favors Samsung gave to Choi.

Kim Jae-youl, the president of the sports business at Cheil Worldwide Inc., enters the special investigation team's office in Seoul for questioning on Dec. 29, 2016. Kim is suspected of playing a key role in Samsung Electronics Co.'s funding of 1.62 billion won (US$1.34 million) for the Korea Winter Sports Elite Center, controlled by a niece of Park's friend Choi Soon-sil, between 2015 and 2016. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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