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Report allegedly created before Park met Lee

July 17,2017
The report on the National Pension Service, discussing the Blue House’s plan to support a generational shift of power for Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong, was drawn up in August 2014, three months after Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee fell into a coma, a Blue House official said Sunday.

The official told reporters that the document, one of about 300 documents found on July 3 recording the misdeeds of former President Park Geun-hye, was discovered to have been written up soon after the Samsung chairman fell into a coma and one month before Park met with Lee Jae-yong.

The Blue House revealed on Friday it had discovered a lengthy paper trail that sheds light on the possible collusion between Park and Samsung Group to ensure Lee Jae-yong would control the business group in exchange for bribes. The documents were found in a cabinet in the civil affairs secretary’s office while furniture was being rearranged.

Lee is accused of bribing Park in exchange for a crucial vote by the government-run National Pension Service to support a controversial merger of its two affiliates, Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, in 2015, a deal that cemented his control over the group. The independent counsel team that investigated the scandal and prosecuted Lee said Park ordered that the pension fund support the merger.

The report included relevant regulations, media reports and a guideline for the pension fund’s exercise of its voting rights. It says, “Samsung management succession situation” and “Use it as an opportunity.”

“Find out what Samsung needs in the management succession situation,” Park Soo-hyun, the Blue House spokesman, quoted the memo as saying during the Friday briefing. “Give support for what needs to be supported and find a way to lead Samsung to contribute more to the national economy. The government is capable of exercising a significant influence in resolving Samsung’s pending issues.”

One month after the document was drawn up, former President Park had a one-on-one meeting with Lee in September 2014. During the meeting, Park demanded that Lee provide financial assistance to equestrian athletes and look after the Korean Equestrian Federation. Park is accused of pressuring Lee to make such contributions to help Chung Yoo-ra, who was an equestrian athlete and is the daughter of her confidante, Choi Soon-sil.

Eleven months after the document was written, the NPS approved the merger of Samsung’s two affiliates during a vote on July 10, 2015. The NPS was the single biggest shareholder of Samsung C&T, holding a 11.2 percent stake. The state-run body’s approval was decisive in realizing the merger between the two.

The Park Young-soo independent council team received the 300 documents - including the report on the NPS discussing the merger - on Friday and spent the weekend analyzing their contents.

Regarding the Blue House’s announcement Sunday that the report was written in August, just one month prior to the meeting between Park and Lee, an official at the council told the JoongAng Ilbo that the timing “carries significant implication” that the senior secretariat office for civil affairs contemplated ways to support the Samsung merger.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said not only could the report prove bribes were exchanged between Park and Lee, it could also implicate Woo Byung-woo, who was presidential secretary for civil affairs in August 2014.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]