Archive for July, 2016



Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, 74 years old, is caught on film with prostitutes.  Source: Newstapa

Lee Kun-hee, the second-generation founder and chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., has routinely frequented several prostitutes simultaneously, video clips obtained by independent news cooperative Newstapa revealed on July 21.

Post-pardon Prostitution

Between December 2011 and June 2013, the 74-year-old Samsung patriarch engaged in sexual activity with four or five prostitutes, in their 20s or 30s, on at least five different occasions at two different private residences in Seoul, according to Newstapa.  About a year earlier, in March 2010, Lee reclaimed the chairman position of Samsung after a government pardon of his convictions for tax evasion of about U$39 million.

Assisted by two male accomplices, one of the prostitutes taped the five occasions.  They, in vain, extorted Samsung for hush money.

Lee suffered from a heart attack in May 2014, and has since been in a coma.


Despite its near-ubiquity, prostitution is outlawed in South Korea. Some of the country’s public would probably shrug off another run-in by Samsung’s Lee.  As if in confirmation of Samsung’s influence on the South Korean press, the Korea Broadcasting System, the country’s equivalent of the UK’s BBC, took down a report of Lee’s transgression from its website on the night of July 21.

As of this reporting, none of the so-called three major newspapers (Chosun, Joongang and Dong A) have run a single story.  Nor has Yonhap News, the country’s publicly chartered news agency.

On July 22 (Korean time), Samsung released a brief statement apologizing for “causing a controversy in connection with Chairman Lee.”

The conspicuous obscenity and misogyny of his latest criminal misdeed aside, the video clips revealed the long-held pattern of how Lee uses his public companies and treats the people who work for him.

According to Newstapa, one of the two upscale residences Lee used for his sexual escapade is leased under the name of Kim In, Lee’s right-hand man who retired in 2010 as CEO of Samsung SDS, the IT services provider living off related party transactions with Samsung affiliates.

Confronted by Newstapa, neither Kim nor Samsung SDS appeared to be aware of how a security deposit of KRW1.3 billion (U$11.4 million) was paid for the leased house.  Samsung Group remains silent on how the payment was made, adding to concerns that Lee still may arbitrarily use the conglomerate’s funds.

Lee’s disregard for basic human and labor rights was also self-evident.  He appeared to apply the same tough labor discipline even to his illegal sex workers, the recordings revealed.  In one scene, a woman, apparently a go-between, charged a penalty of KRW 500,000 ($440) on KRW 5 million (U$4,400) for each prostitute because they failed to satisfy one of the preferences set by Lee for height, weight, and outfit.

All in all, what Newstapa’s exclusive report implies:  Lee’s fall from grace.  In South Korea, the patriarch was once touted as a visionary leader for turning a me-too brand Samsung into a global tech giant.

After a series of irregularities, Lee has lost public respect.  He is now a subject of public contempt, despised enough to be extorted by petty criminals.

Can Samsung and the founding family turn around the status quo? The answer would depend at least in part on how they will address ongoing occupational disease crisis.

On Newstapa

Newstapa, founded in 2012 by a small group of investigative TV journalists who were forcibly dismissed for their demands for editorial independence, files and distributes reports via YouTube and local podcasting platforms.  It is a form of cooperative run by donations.

As the sole Korean part of the Panama Papers Project by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Newstapa recently unearthed shell companies owned by POSCO, South Korea’s steelmaker, and children of the country’s former military dictators.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:
1) institute a permanent, independently verifiable safety program;
2) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and
3) make a sincere and full apology.

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NewDaily Biz uses a Samsung-cluster victim’s family conflict to smear the victim and SHARPS.  Source: NewDaily webpage capture


NewDaily Biz, the conservative online newspaper notorious for its top executive’s attempts at ingratiation with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., has recently shown that it would enthusiastically kowtow to the world’s largest company at the expense of the ongoing personal distress of a Samsung-cluster victim and the integrity of SHARPS.

Rescue My Daughter?

On July 15, NewDaily Biz ran an interview with the father of a cluster victim, whom staff writer Choi Jong-hee quoted as crying: “Rescue my daughter held hostage [by SHARPS].”  SHARPS has profiled and been representing the victim (her name is withheld at her request to protect  her privacy), diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008 after working in a Samsung LCD lab in 2003-5.  The victim, now in her late twenties, had severed ties with her father when she was a teenager, before her employment with Samsung, for personal reasons.

At the victim’s request, they do not disclose to her father her whereabouts or other private information while SHARPS activists have, on a number of different occasions, provided consultation and advice to her parents.


The following day, on July 16, Lim Ja-woon, SHARPS’ legal counsel, and Lee Jong-ran, its labor attorney, met with the victim’s father and reporter Choi.  The father said he did not mean to describe his daughter as hostage and was quoted out of context.  Reporter Choi did not counter or object to the father’s claim.

SHARPS demanded Choi to take down the article.  Instead of giving a direct answer, in an email he sent to SHARPS’s Lim, the reporter said he recorded all defamatory remarks made against him during the meeting as he felt insulted.


NewDaily Biz reporter Choi Jong-hee   Source: Newdaily Biz website

Samsung’s Hostage                        

It is well known that the newspaper’s editorial leadership and management remain subservient to Samsung, which controls about 14.4 percent of South Korea’s advertisement with annual spending of KRW 2.8 trillion (U$2.5 billion).

On April 18, 2014, NewsDaily Biz Representative Director and Editor-in-Chief Park Jung-kyu took down a review of Another Promise, a crowd-funded feature film based on the story of a SHARPS founder and the father of the first known cluster victim, Hwang Sang-ki.

In a text message to a Samsung PR executive, Park said he learned that the executive was upset by the article on the movie and went on saying, “I immediately found out about what happened and immediately had it removed under my watch.”  After using the word “immediately” twice in a sentence, the top editor went on saying. “There was no particular intention, as it was written by a columnist.”

Park (1)

NewDaily Biz Representative Director Park Jung-kyu  Source: Naver.com capture

He concluded the text, expressing “deep and deep” gratitude.  Park remains Representative Director while his publication and reporters appear to be held hostage by Samsung.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:

1) institute a permanent, independently verifiable safety program;

2) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and

3) make a sincere and full apology.


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Thanks to fellow human-rights activists who filled in for them at the on-going sit-in, SHARPS could recently take a two-day retreat to a beach town near to Sokcho, the hometown of Hwang Sang-ki, a founder of SHARPS and the father of Hwang Yu-mi, the first publicly known victim of Samsung’s occupational-disease cluster.

Over the past three days, several South Korean pro-business publications finally broke their long silence on SHARPS’s ongoing 280-day-plus sit-in-but only to slander it, while at the same time, continuing to embellishing the public image of Lee Jae-yong, the heir apparent of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. and other affiliates.

On July 13, at least three newspapers ran similarly worded reports, criticizing some victims of Samsung’s occupational disease cluster and SHARPS advocates for taking a two-day-and-one-night retreat to a beach town over the weekend.

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space, calling for the world’s largest technology firm to resume dialogue with the advocate group and cluster victims over a publicly verifiable safety measure and transparent and fair reparations.

The articles smeared SHARPS and its supporters for going on a retreat together on July 8-9 when members of Human Rights Fund, the non-profit human rights advocacy group led by Park Lae-goon, one the country’s most respected human rights campaigners, filled in for them at the sit-in.

Protest for Protest’s Sake?

“While crying for the desperation of the occupational disease issue, SHARPS took vacations and left the sit-in to others,” Munhwa Il Bo said on July 13.  “According to some opinions, SHARPS are professional protestors who protest for protest’s sake, regardless of their demand.” the newspaper concluded, cowardly wrapping its own opinion-or Samsung’s—in “some opinions.”   On the same day of its release, the article was featured on the front page of Samsung’s Intranet.

On July 14, Financial News, another business publication, went further in saying: “the desperation of the sit-in has vanished and it has become business as usual.”

“They [SHARPS] said their sit-in entered into 279 days as of July 11,” Seoul Economic Daily said on July 12. “They still count the two days of vacations into it.”

The three newspapers all painted SHARPS’s attempts to engage supporters in the sit-in as something akin to hiring substitute protesters.  Both Munhwa Il Bo and Financial News quoted an anonymous Samsung source who said, “It is highly likely that SHARPS’s sit-in is in breach of law.”   None have sought comment from SHARPS.


“These journalists do not understand the concept of solidarity” Lim Ja-woon, legal counsel with SHARPS, told Media Today, the media watchdog, commenting on the reports. “Samsung shows antipathy when there is somebody [to turn to] with its cluster victims.”

Lim warned Samsung against its attempts to drive a wedge between cluster victims and their advocates, saying, “The recent slander by these newspapers bears similarity to Samsung’s attempts to limit the scope of the cluster issue only to the victims’.”

Lee Jae-yong: Boy Meets World?   

In South Korea, Samsung controls the lion’s share in the print ad market.  In the past six years, as if in a show of force, Samsung has been placing front-page ads in the New Year issues of more than 20 national dailies.

While much of the country’s mainstream media remains silent or often sullies Samsung-cluster victims and SHARPS, it is actively engaged in boosting Lee Jae-yong, Samsung’s 48-year-old heir apparent whose only known business record to date is a bankrupt Internet company.

On July 15, a number of South Korean dailies ran a picture of Lee and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty taken at Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, an exclusive media finance conference also known as “Summer Camp For Billionaires.”

Samsung probably believes that a picture of Lee with a female global business leader can help further groom Lee’s image as what local media call him: the Royal Prince of Samsung.  However, what really unites Rometty and Lee is their recent attempts to appease investor doubts about their competence with increased dividends or frequent stock buybacks.


Lee Jae-yong, the heir-apparent of Samsung, walks with Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM during Sun Valley Conference.  What’s common between Lee and Rometty is investor skepticism about their competence. Source: Internet image capture


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