Posts Tagged ‘Lotte’

South Korea’s New President Prepares to Square Off With Corporate Dynasties

May 12, 2017

Moon Jae-in has a rare opportunity to overhaul chaebol system. Can he deliver?

Moon Jae-in addresses a forum on chaebol reform in January.

Moon Jae-in addresses a forum on chaebol reform in January. PHOTO: YONHAP NEWS/ZUMA PRESS
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Updated May 11, 2017 10:34 p.m. ET

SEOUL—South Korea’s new president, like his predecessors, promised to loosen the hold that powerful, family-run business empires such as Samsung have over the economy, and he has a rare opening to accelerate change.

President Moon Jae-in has vowed to reform South Korea’s chaebols “gradually, but fully.” How extensive those changes are by the end of his five-year term will be determined in large part by his ability to overcome political challenges and the economic entrenchment of the conglomerates.

Mr. Moon, sworn in Wednesday as the country’s first left-leaning president in nine years, rode a wave of populist frustration over a bribery scandal that rocked the country’s business and political elite, from his predecessor to top Samsung officials.

Revamping these dynastic enterprises has been a popular campaign promise in the past. Though the chaebols once lifted the nation out of poverty, they are now seen by many South Koreans as hindering growth and competitiveness of smaller businesses.

Past presidents haven’t produced substantial changes to the ownership structures or transparency of conglomerates such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai Motor due to opposition from pro-business conservative lawmakers and lobbying groups.

Things could be different under Mr. Moon. His tough talk about revamping the chaebol system faces a better shot of succeeding now due to public outcry over how economically powerful a handful of conglomerates have become.

Mr. Moon also is under pressure to respond to public discontent over the corruption scandal that resulted in the jailing of former president Park Geun-hye and Samsung’s de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong. Both have denied wrongdoing and their trials are continuing.

“Even though at one point the chaebols were too important to touch, now the dynamic has changed,” said Troy Stangarone, a senior director at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington.

The Federation of Korean Industries, a lobbying firm representing some chaebols, said it looks forward to the new government’s efforts “to pave a path for economic growth through integration and reform.”

Some South Korean lawmakers and corporate-governance experts say shaking up chaebols would reduce their clout and help to diversify the economy by making it easier for new firms to compete—and potentially create more jobs and spur innovation.

In moving to diminish their dominance, Mr. Moon will face resistance from pro-business conservative lawmakers. While several bills are circulating with lawmakers to further regulate the chaebols, legislating would require support from the pro-business conservative bloc. During the election campaign, Mr. Moon’s main conservative rival, Hong Joon-pyo, pledged to relax regulations for conglomerates.

Mr. Moon’s party holds 120 out of 300 seats in the National Assembly. The combined voting power of the three progressive parties falls short of the 60% needed to pass non-budget bills in plenary session.

A South Korean national flag, left, and LG Electronics corporate flag fly outside the company's factory in Changwon, South Korea in 2016.

A South Korean national flag, left, and LG Electronics corporate flag fly outside the company’s factory in Changwon, South Korea in 2016. PHOTO: SEONGJOON CHO/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Mr. Moon can effect some changes without legislative approval, such as limiting conglomerates’ ability to contract work to other affiliates, said Park Sang-in, an economics professor at Seoul National University. Pushing these measures would demonstrate that Mr. Moon prioritizes chaebol reform, he said.

A representative from Mr. Moon’s office wasn’t available for comment.

Some chaebols are already making changes in response to investor agitation and potential legislative crackdowns. For politicians, attacking the conglomerates has become easier as the corruption scandal has unfolded and economic growth has slowed.

The largest South Korean conglomerates have traditionally maintained close ties with the government. Critics accuse them of using their sway to dominate industries and discourage new entrants. The five largest chaebols represented about 10.6% of the country’s gross domestic product, as calculated based on the groups’ added value. Sales revenue generated by the top five chaebols was equivalent to 58% of GDP in 2015, according to Chiang Min-hua, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s East Asian Institute.

Mr. Moon has said he wants conglomerates to move to clearer holding-company structures and reduce use of so-called treasury shares that have been critical voting blocs to help push through generational transfers of power.

He wants to give minority shareholders a larger say in company decisions. And he has pledged to give South Korea’s National Pension Service more independence in proxy voting—a shift that should usher in greater transparency as to which company moves earn the support of the world’s fourth-largest retirement fund.

The core tension, corporate-governance advocates and foreign investors say, is that South Korea’s marquee companies too often prioritize family succession planning over what’s best for shareholders.

Complicated family ownership and a lack of transparency have weighed on South Korean shares, meaning they are priced lower than what they could fetch in more open markets, these people say.

Still, the Kospi Composite Index has been performing strongly this year, gaining more than 13% since Jan. 1.

Efforts to overhaul the chaebols aren’t new. Ms. Park, the former president, adopted measures that would hinder further chaebol cross-shareholdings.

“Chaebol reform has been a political slogan in South Korea for years, but it has seen little progress up until now,” said Chung Sun-seop, head of corporate-research firm Chaebul.com.

Chaebol reform has been a political slogan in South Korea for years, but it has seen little progress up until now.

—Chung Sun-seop

Many conglomerates have taken steps in recent years to modernize. LG, Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. and SK Group have adopted or are moving to holding-company structures—long viewed by lawmakers and corporate-governance advocates as more transparent.

Samsung Electronics Co. said it wouldn’t adopt a holding-company format, but said last month that it would cancel some $35 billion in legacy treasury shares. The removal of treasury shares—typically repurchased stocks the company holds in reserve—means Samsung is walking away from conventional chaebol succession planning.

Corrections & Amplifications
A chart in this article shows the value that South Korean conglomerates added to the country’s economy in trillions of won. An earlier version of the chart incorrectly stated that the value was in billions of won. (May 11)

Write to Timothy W. Martin at timothy.martin@wsj.com and Eun-Young Jeong at Eun-Young.Jeong@wsj.com

Appeared in the May. 12, 2017, print edition as ‘Under Moon, Firms Expect to Feel Pressure.’

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China’s Secret Weapon in South Korea Missile Fight: Hackers

April 21, 2017

China denies it is retaliating over the Thaad missile system, but a U.S. cybersecurity firm says they are

This 2015 handout photo from the U.S. Department of Defense shows a terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor being test launched on Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean.

This 2015 handout photo from the U.S. Department of Defense shows a terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor being test launched on Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean. PHOTO: AFP PHOTO / DOD / BEN LISTERMAN
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April 21, 2017 5:20 a.m. ET

Chinese state-backed hackers have recently targeted South Korean entities involved in deploying a U.S. missile-defense system, says an American cybersecurity firm, despite Beijing’s denial of retaliation against Seoul over the issue.

In recent weeks, two cyberespionage groups that the firm linked to Beijing’s military and intelligence agencies have launched a variety of attacks against South Korea’s government, military, defense companies and a big conglomerate, John Hultquist, director of cyberespionage analysis at FireEye Inc., said in an interview.

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The California-based firm, which counts South Korean agencies as clients, including one that oversees internet security, wouldn’t name the targets.

While FireEye and other cybersecurity experts say Chinese hackers have long targeted South Korea, they note a rise in the number and intensity of attacks in the weeks since South Korea said it would deploy Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, a sophisticated missile-defense system aimed at defending South Korea from a North Korean missile threat.

China opposes Thaad, saying its radar system can reach deep into its own territory and compromise its security. South Korea and the U.S. say Thaad is purely defensive. The first components of the system arrived in South Korea last month and have been a key issue in the current presidential campaign there.

One of the two hacker groups, which FireEye dubbed Tonto Team, is tied to China’s military and based out of the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, where North Korean hackers are also known to be active, said Mr. Hultquist, a former senior U.S. intelligence analyst. FireEye believes the other, known as APT10, may be linked to other Chinese military or intelligence units.

China’s Ministry of Defense said this week Beijing has consistently opposed hacking, and that the People’s Liberation Army “has never supported any hacking activity.” China has said it is itself a major hacking victim but has declined to offer specifics.

Mr. Hultquist said the two hacking groups gained access to their targets’ systems by using web-based intrusions, and by inducing people to click on weaponized email attachments or compromised websites. He declined to offer more specific details.

HACK ATTACKS

Recent cyberattacks attributed to Chinese state-backed groups.

  • Since February Spear-phishing* and watering hole** attacks were conducted against South Korean government, military and commercial targets connected to a U.S. missile defense system.
  • February, March Attendees of a board meeting at the National Foreign Trade Council were targeted with malware through the U.S. lobby group’s website.
  • Since 2016 Mining, technology, engineering and other companies in Japan, Europe and North America were intruded on through third-party IT service providers.
  • 2014-2015 Hackers penetrated a network of U.S. Office of Personnel Management to steal records connected to millions of government employees and contractors.
  • 2011-2012 South Korean targets, including government, media, military and think tanks were targeted with spear-phishing attacks.
  • *Sending fraudulent emails made to look as if they come from a trusted party in order to trick a target into downloading malicious software.
  • **A strategy in which the attacker guesses or observes which websites a targeted group often uses and infects them with malware to infect the group’s network..
  • Sources: FireEye, Trend Micro, Fidelis, PricewaterhouseCoopers and BAE Systems, WSJ reporting

Mr. Hultquist added that an error in one of the group’s operational security provided FireEye’s analysts with new information about the group’s origins.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last month that its website was targeted in a denial-of-service attack—one in which a flood of hacker-directed computers cripple a website—that originated in China.

A spokesman said that “prompt defensive measures” ensured that the attacks weren’t effective, adding that it was maintaining an “emergency service system” to repel Chinese hackers.

The ministry this week declined to comment further, or to say which cybersecurity firm it had employed or whether he thought the attacks were related to Thaad.

Another cybersecurity company, Russia’s Kaspersky Lab ZAO, said it observed a new wave of attacks on South Korean targets using malicious software that appeared to have been developed by Chinese speakers starting in February.

The attackers used so-called spear-phishing emails armed with malware hidden in documents related to national security, aerospace and other topics of strategic interest, said Park Seong-su, a senior global researcher for Kaspersky. The company typically declines to attribute cyberattacks and said it couldn’t say if the recent ones were related to Thaad.

The two hacking groups with alleged ties to Beijing have been joined by other so-called hacktivists—patriotic Chinese hackers acting independently of the government and using names like the “Panda Intelligence Bureau” and the “Denounce Lotte Group,” Mr. Hultquist said.

South Korea’s Lotte Group has become a particular focus of Chinese ire after the conglomerate approved a land swap this year that allowed the government to deploy a Thaad battery on a company golf course.

Last month, just after the land swap was approved, a Lotte duty-free shopping website was crippled by a denial-of-service attack, said a company spokeswoman, who added that its Chinese website had been disrupted with a virus in February. She declined to comment on its source.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to questions about the website attacks. The ministry has previously addressed Lotte’s recent troubles in China by saying that the country welcomes foreign companies as long as they abide by Chinese law.

The U.S. has also accused Chinese state-backed hacking groups of breaking into government and commercial networks, though cybersecurity firms say such activity has dropped since the two nations struck a cybersecurity deal in 2015.

The two Chinese hacking groups named by FireEye are suspected of previous cyberattacks.

FireEye linked Tonto Team to an earlier state-backed Chinese hacking campaign, identified by Tokyo-based cybersecurity firm Trend Micro Inc. in 2012, which focused on South Korea’s government, media and military. Trend Micro declined to comment.

Two cybersecurity reports this month accused APT10 of launching a spate of recent attacks around the globe, including on a prominent U.S. trade lobbying group. One of those reports, jointly published by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and British weapons maker BAE Systems, said the Chinese hacker collective has recently grown more sophisticated, using custom-designed malware and accessing its targets’ systems by first hacking into trusted third-party IT service providers.

Because of the new scrutiny from that report, FireEye said in a recent blog post that APT10 was likely to lay low, though in the longer run, it added, “we believe they will return to their large-scale operations, potentially employing new tactics, techniques and procedures.”

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com and Josh Chin at josh.chin@wsj.com

 

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The real quarrel between China and South Korea isn’t about THAAD

March 14, 2017

Cary Huang says China’s need to keep North Korea as a communist ally leaves South Korea with little choice but to turn to America to bolster its defence

By Cary Huang
South China Morning Post

Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 1:51pm

The bitter confrontation between China and South Korea in the wake of Seoul’s adoption of a US-built anti-missile defence system, designed to protect against a nuclear attack from the North, has seen relations sink to their lowest level since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992.

Only two years ago, then South Korean leader Park Geun-hye stood alongside President Xi Jinping (習近平) on the rostrum of Tiananmen Square to review a military parade commemorating the end of the second world war, in defiance of protests from Washington and Tokyo. The warm feelings of goodwill have all but faded. Today, the tension is sparking fear that the politically divided Korean peninsula might become a lightning rod of rivalry between China and a US-led regional alliance.

In response to the deployment of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system on Korean soil, China has launched or instigated a series of protests and retaliation, including the boycott of Korean products from cosmetics to TV soap operas, and the threat of a suspension of diplomatic ties.

Image may contain: one or more people

A Lotte Mart employee stands in an almost empty store on Monday in Shanghai. The store remained open but dozens of other Lotte stores in China have been closed, amid a boycott of South Korean products. Photo: AFP

The two countries have good reason to maintain warm relations, in view of their close historical bond, deep economic integration and shared aspirations for regional stability. China is South Korea’s largest trading partner and a critical stakeholder in many bilateral and regional issues. Beijing also sorely needs Seoul’s help to stabilise the fragile situation in northeast Asia, in the face of its rivalry with Japan and the challenges posed by self-ruling Taiwan.

Beijing’s bottom line is to keep the Kim dynasty afloat

However, while South Korea relies heavily on China economically, for military protection against a nuclear-armed North Korea, it has to turn to the US, given China’s reluctance to tame its communist ally.

Pyongyang has stepped up its missile testing, violating international law and defying UN Security Council resolutions. In some ways, the THAAD missile interception system is the only choice for Seoul to protect its people.

China, of course, fears that the US might also use it as a tool to contain it militarily, as the system’s radar, which has a range of more than 2,000km, can peer deep into China’s territory.

Beijing and Seoul have many incentives to work out a solution to better accommodate each other’s core interests, as Pyongyang’s nuclear programme undermines the security of both. Why is this not happening?

One big problem is that Beijing has been trying to balance efforts towards two contradictory goals – serving its geopolitical and ideological needs. On the one hand, Beijing wants to see a denuclearised Korean peninsula, but, on the other, it fears the loss of a communist ally.

Chinese strategists have long worried about the possible collapse of the reclusive state, leaving China without a buffer to US forces under a unified Korea. The last thing China’s communist leaders want to see is the collapse of one of the last few surviving communist regimes, as it might also undermine their own legitimacy at home. Beijing’s bottom line is keeping the Kim dynasty afloat to maintain a strategic ally as well as a token of communist rule.

But playing the role of sole patron and protector of one of the world’s most repressive regimes has cost China dearly, and led to the increasing distrust between it and most of its neighbours, including South Korea.

The crisis once again tells us that while the rules of realpolitik prevail in diplomacy, ideology still has a role to play in the post-cold-war era.

Cary Huang is a senior writer at the Post

http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2078425/why-real-quarrel-between-beijing-and-seoul-isnt-about-thaad

China Reacts With Anger, Threats After South Korean Missile Defence Decision

February 28, 2017

BEIJING — Chinese state media have reacted with anger and boycott threats after the board of an affiliate of South Korea’s Lotte Group approved a land swap with the government that allows authorities to deploy a U.S. missile defence system.

The government decided last year to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, in response to the North Korean missile threat, on land that is part of a golf course owned by Lotte in the Seongju region, southeast of Seoul.

The board of unlisted Lotte International Co Ltd approved the deal with the government on Monday.

China objects to the deployment in South Korea of the THAAD, which has a powerful radar capable of penetrating Chinese territory, with Beijing saying it is a threat to its security and will do nothing to ease tension with North Korea.

Lotte should be shown the door in China, the influential state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Tuesday.

“We also propose that Chinese society should coordinate voluntarily in expanding restrictions on South Korean cultural goods and entertainment exports to China, and block them when necessary,” it said in its English-language edition.

The paper’s Chinese version said South Korean cars and cellphones should be targeted as well.

“There are loads of substitutes for South Korean cars and cellphones,” it said.

China has already twice issued “solemn representations” to South Korea about the most recent THAAD-related developments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily briefing in Beijing.

But it welcomes foreign companies to operate in China, he said. “Whether or not a foreign company can operate successfully in China, in the end is a decision for the Chinese market and consumer,” he added.

Late on Monday, the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said cutting diplomatic ties should be considered.

“If THAAD is really deployed in South Korea, then China-South Korea relations will face the possibility of getting ready to cut off diplomatic relations,” it said on the WeChat account of its overseas edition.

The official Xinhua news agency also said in a commentary late on Monday that China “did not welcome this kind of Lotte”.

“Chinese consumers can absolutely say no to this kind of company and their goods based on considerations of ‘national security’,” it said.

South Korea’s defence ministry said on Tuesday it had signed a land swap deal, with Lotte exchanging the golf course for military property. A South Korean military official told Reuters the military would begin area patrols and install fences.

The Lotte Group said on Feb. 8 Chinese authorities had stopped construction at a multi-billion dollar real estate project in China after a fire inspection, fuelling concern in South Korea about damage to commercial ties with the world’s second-largest economy.

Asked if South Korea had demanded the Chinese government suspend any economic retaliation, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said: “We have continuously persuaded China so far and will keep continuing efforts to do so.”

South Korean government officials have said THAAD is a defensive measure against North Korean threats and does not target any other country.

South Korea’s central bank said this month the number of Chinese tourists visiting the tourist island of Jeju had fallen 6.7 percent over the Lunar New Year holiday from last year, partly because of China’s “anti-South Korea measures due to the THAAD deployment decision”.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL; Editing by Paul Tait and Clarence Fernandez)

South Korea: President Park Geun-Hye’s corruption scandal — country’s business elite brought in for questioning

December 5, 2016

AFP

© YONHAP/AFP | National Security Office chief Kim Kwan-Jin (L) and other presidential aides take an oath during a hearing on South Korean President Park Geun-Hye’s corruption scandal in Seoul

SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea lawmakers on Monday kicked off an unprecedented series of hearings that will see the country’s business elite grilled over a corruption scandal engulfing impeachment-threatened President Park Geun-Hye.

The powerful heads of family-run conglomerates such as Samsung and Hyundai will be among those testifying before a parliamentary investigation ahead of an impeachment vote to remove the president on Friday.

The hearings opened on the back of a series of weekly mass demonstrations in Seoul that have seen millions of people take to the streets to call for Park’s ouster.

Park is accused of colluding with her secretive confidante, Choi Soon-Sil, to strong-arm giant corporations into “donating” nearly $70 million to two dubious non-profit foundations.

Choi, who has been indicted on charges of coercion and abuse of power, is accused of syphoning some of the donated funds for personal use. She denies all criminal charges.

Choi is set to appear at the televised hearings on Wednesday, marking the first time she will answer questions in public on her role in the scandal.

Tuesday’s testimony will be devoted to interrogating the corporate bigwigs, including Samsung group scion Lee Jae-Yong, Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-Koo and seven heads of other conglomerates including LG, Lotte, Hanjin and CJ.

They are among the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, but the “Choi-gate” scandal has taken the lid off simmering public resentment over their influence and perceived sense of privilege at a time of slowing economic growth

According to industry sources cited by the largest-circulation newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, many of them have been going through frantic preparations to avoid any public humiliation, holding mock question and answer sessions with aides and memorising responses to sensitive issues.

Samsung — the South’s largest business group — made the biggest contributions of 20 billion won ($17 million) to Choi’s foundations, followed by Hyundai, SK, LG and Lotte.

Samsung is also accused of separately offering millions of euros to Choi to bankroll her daughter’s equestrian training in Germany.

Prosecutors have raided the headquarters of Samsung and other groups for any evidence that they received policy favours in exchange of donations.

President Park will not appear before the hearings, after fierce opposition from her ruling conservative party to the idea of her being called.

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Reuters

South Korea’s embattled President Park Geun-hye faces a pivotal week, with an effort to impeach her gaining support from within her own party and the heads of the country’s biggest business groups set to give testimony to a parliamentary committee.

Three opposition parties introduced a bill on Saturday to impeach Park, who is accused of abuse of power, putting her in danger of becoming the first democratically elected South Korean leader to leave office early.

“The chances of the impeachment bill passing on Dec. 9 are 50-50,” Woo Sang-ho, parliamentary leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, told a party meeting on Monday.

The vote is set for Friday. If successful, it would require the approval of South Korea’s Constitutional Court, a process that experts said would take at least two months.

The opposition parties need at least 28 members from Park’s Saenuri Party to secure the two-thirds majority required for the bill to pass. At least 29 of them are believed to be planning to vote for the bill, members of the breakaway faction said.

On Monday, Park’s presidential Blue House aides addressed a parliamentary hearing over the allegation that Park and her friend, Choi Soon-sil, as well as a senior aide to Park, put pressure on conglomerates to pay money to foundations that were set up to promote Park’s policy initiatives.

The heads of nine conglomerates, or chaebol, including Samsung Group’s de facto leader Jay Y. Lee and Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo, have been invited to Tuesday’s inquiry, in what would be an unprecedented parliamentary appearance by such a group.

They are expected to be questioned whether they came under pressure from Park and were promised favors in return.

Park has denied wrongdoing but has apologized for carelessness in her ties with Choi.

Park was expected to make another public address this week, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency cited ruling party officials as saying, although the presidential office said nothing had been decided.

In televised remarks last week, she offered to step down and asked parliament to decide how and when she should leave office.

Opposition parties rejected the proposal, calling it a ploy to buy time and avoid being impeached, and vowed to push ahead with impeachment.

They cited another protest rally on Saturday, which organizers called the largest yet, with 1.7 million participants, as the clearest reason why she should be ousted. Police said the Seoul crowd reached 320,000 at its peak.

(Reporting by Jack Kim Additional reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Tony Munroe and Clarence Fernandez)

South Korean Scandal Widens With New Raids, Impeachment Effort

November 24, 2016

Prosecutors search the offices of Lotte and SK Group as part of an investigation into influence peddling

Protestors attended a demonstration in Seoul this week demanding the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
Protestors attended a demonstration in Seoul this week demanding the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye. PHOTO: LEE JAE-WON/AFLO VIA ZUMA PRESS

Updated Nov. 24, 2016 12:40 a.m. ET

SEOUL—South Korean prosecutors raided the offices of two conglomerates on Thursday as part of their widening probe into an influence-peddling scandal involving the country’s leader and her confidante.

The searches at Lotte Group and SK Group came as opposition lawmakers said they would hold a vote in early December to impeach President Park Geun-hye. It was unclear whether enough ruling party lawmakers would join them to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for impeachment.

Lotte and SK acknowledged the raids but didn’t elaborate further. Prosecutors also declined to comment.

The raids are part of a weekslong probe into Choi Soon-sil, a longtime confidante of Ms. Park, whose public standing has been tarnished by the association. South Korean media has reported that Ms. Choi exerted influence over public affairs, despite having no official role in government, and that she used her political and business ties to benefit her daughter, an equestrian athlete. A lawyer for Ms. Choi couldn’t be reached for comment.

Thursday’s action came a day after prosecutors raided Samsung’s headquarters in Seoul and the offices of the country’s National Pension Service in Jeonju.

Prosecutors on Thursday also searched the Ministry of Strategy and Finance in Sejong and the Korea Customs Service in Daejeon. The two government agencies are involved in providing licenses for the country’s duty-free business.

It wasn’t evident if the raids are related to the licensing. Both SK and Lotte were denied approval to renew the licensing deals in November. “We had to halt our duty-free business since our license expired,” said an SK spokesman.

SK donated $9.5 million to two foundations that prosecutors allege were managed by Ms. Choi and Lotte provided $3.8 million, according to tax records reviewed by Chaebul.com, a corporate-research firm.

Prosecutors also questioned SK chairman Chey Tae-won and Lotte chairman Shin Dong-bin this month alongside other corporate heads, including Samsung’s Lee Jae-yong The Hyundai Motor’s Jung Mong-koo details of the exchanges weren’t made public.

Write to Eun-Young Jeong at Eun-Young.Jeong@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/south-korean-scandal-widens-with-new-probes-impeachment-effort-1479964349