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[经济学人] [2007.11.29]Dirty laundry









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South Korea

Dirty laundry


Nov 29th 2007 | SEOUL
From The Economist print edition

World-bestriding Samsung faces a little local difficulty


CYNICS in South Korea, and there are many, expect the scandal now engulfing the country's biggest conglomerate, or chaebol, simply to fizzle out. Samsung stands accused of bribing politicians, bureaucrats and prosecutors to do its bidding. Samsung, whose businesses—from electronics to shipbuilding—produce revenues equivalent to one-fifth of South Korea's GDP, calls the allegations “ungrounded and untrue”. Whatever their basis in fact, this is an election year and the economy is, as ever, the voters' biggest concern. So many believe the investigations into the accusations will end with Samsung receiving a slap on the wrist, at worst.


Yet it may turn out differently. Samsung's accuser is no ordinary whistleblower. He was the group's senior legal officer, Kim Yong-chul, the first insider to make such allegations. At first only one newspaper, Hankyoreh, regarded as a provocative gadfly, dared print them. Many in South Korea believe the press coddles the chaebols because of their clout as advertisers.

然而结果可能有点不同。三星的控告者不是一个普通的检举人。他是这个集团的高级法律职员,金勇哲(Kim Yong-chul),作出这种指控的第一个局内人。一开始仅有一家报纸,Hankyoreh,它被认为是一只挑衅的牛虻,敢于刊登这些指控。许多韩国人相信新闻界讨好“财阀”是因为顾及他们作为广告客户的影响力。

Frustrated by the tepid response, Mr Kim turned to the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice (CPAJ). This 33-year-old group played a leading role in ending South Korea's military dictatorship in 1987. So when it held a news conference the big papers could not ignore it. Mr Kim said Samsung had more than 1,000 bank accounts, including some under his own name, which were used for bribery. And he said executives put pressure on witnesses and prosecutors during a trial about the legality of a sale of securities by Lee Kun-hee, Samsung's chairman, to his son, Lee Jay-yong, which enabled the younger Mr Lee to take control of the group's holding company.

对反响太小感到失望的金先生转而投向基督教牧师正义联合会(Catholic Priests' Association for Justice (CPAJ))。这个有着33年历史的组织在1987年终止韩国军人独裁时扮演了领导角色。因此当它召开了一次新闻发布会之后大报们也不能忽视它了。金先生说三星有1000个银行帐号,包括他名下的一些,被用来行贿。而且,他说主管人员在审理三星主席李健熙(Lee Kun-Hee)向他的儿子李杰勇(Lee Jay-yong)出售股份-这些出售将使年轻的李先生能够控制该集团的控股公司-的合法性一案中向证人和检察官施压。

Prosecutors have already launched one investigation. After a public outcry, another inquiry by a special independent prosecutor was announced. Lee Kun-hee has been banned from leaving the country. Song Ho-chang, of Lawyers for a Democratic Society, a group backing Mr Kim, believes South Korea has made much progress in reducing the collusion between business and politicians.

警察官已经发起了一个调查。在一次公开抗议之后,另一个由特殊独立检察官主持的调查也开始了。李健熙已经被禁止离开这个国家。Song Ho-chang,来自民主社会律师协会,该组织支持金先生,相信韩国在减少商业与政治家相互勾结上已经有了很大进步。

Others argue that bribery by leading business groups remains deeply rooted and that no president has had the courage to tackle it. The current president, Roh Moo-hyun, promised to break the power of the chaebols; he has done nothing. Many in South Korea believe the chaebols have to make their business dealings more transparent. Dynastic succession has to go, they say: we are not North Korea.


The whistleblower himself has sought sanctuary. Mr Kim is housed and fed by the CPAJ. Meanwhile a whispering campaign against him is making its way around Seoul. Father Kim In-kook of the CPAJ defends him: “He spent a lot of time thinking what he should do; and he has concluded that uncovering these actions by Samsung will benefit society.” But Father Kim declined to meet The Economist, saying his group had made a collective decision not to talk to foreign reporters about the Samsung allegations. “We don't want to air Korea's dirty laundry to the world,” he said. They have that, at least, in common with Samsung.

检举人自己已经找到避难所。金先生现由CPAJ提供食宿。与此同时,一些针对他的流言蜚语也在首尔传播开来。CPAJKim In-kook为他辩护说:“他花了很多时间来思考他应该怎么做;而且他最终决定揭露三星的这些活动将有益于社会。”但是金神父拒绝会见The Economist,说他的组织已经做了一个集体决定,不向外国记者谈论对三星的这些指控。“我们不想将韩国这些不可告人秘密宣扬到全世界去。”他说。至少,在这一点上,他们与三星意见一致。


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