From Korea Herald
Hanwha Group chairman Kim Seung-youn was arrested on Friday for his involvement in assault of six bar employees.
A judge at the Seoul Central District Court issued an arrest warrant for the nation's ninth largest conglomerate at 11 p.m. after he admitted part of charges during a three-hour court hearing.
Kim, 55, became the first conglomerate owner in Korea to be arrested for direct involvement in violent acts. He was arrested in 1993 on charges of violating foreign currency rules and was indicted in 2003 for providing slush funds to politicians. He was convicted in both cases.
The prosecution on Thursday asked the court to approve his arrest on six charges including assault, confinement and abduction, which could lead to a sentence of more than 22 years in prison.
Kim is suspected of being involved in the assault of six employees of a Seoul bar on March 8 after his 22-year-old son, Dong-won, was injured in a fight with the employees in a scuffle a few hours earlier.
The court also approved an arrest warrant for his top bodyguard.
"There is a concern over possible destruction of evidence," judge Lee Kwang-man said. He noted that the suspects had attempted to destroy evidence "by influencing accomplices and witnesses while the investigation was under way."
He was detained at Namdaemun Police Station in Seoul. The two could be held at the station for up to 10 days as police carry out supplementary investigations.
Five of the six victims have testified to being badly beaten by the chairman himself with a steel pipe while one was attacked by his son, after they were taken to a construction site at Mount Cheonggye in suburban Seoul.
Kim, who previously denied all charges, admitted yesterday that he went to the mountain area and battering the bar employees. But he denied wielding a steel pipe during the attacks.
After the hearing, he apologized to the public for the second time. "I once again apologize sincerely for causing trouble," he told reporters. "I hope there will no longer be a father as foolish as I."
Meanwhile, police said yesterday that three more people may have been beaten by Kim and that more witnesses confirmed his involvement.
According to witnesses, three more workers had been taken to Mount Cheonggye on the day of the assault, after bar owners paid them money to "pretend" they were the ones who has assaulted Kim's son. The three additional victims were not workers of the two bars, police said.
"We also secured statements from bar employees who witnesses Kim's assault on the bar owner," said an officer of Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency yesterday. "The witnesses appear to have kept silent, afraid of possible revenge from Kim."
Investigators also secured evidence that another gang leader, surnamed Chang, had mobilized his men following a request from Hanwha employees.
Police found from cell phone records that Chang made calls to gangsters and Hanwha employees on March 8 at the three locations. Chang said that he would voluntarily show up at Namdaemun Police Station for questioning, police said.
Police and prosecution investigators are focusing on tracking down a crime gang leader who allegedly took part in the revenge attacks.
The 54-year-old, surnamed Oh, is believed to have been at the crime scenes. Oh has been out of the country since April 27, investigators said.
Police are planning to investigate the bank accounts of Oh to support allegations that he received 300 million won from Hanwha for mobilizing gang thugs to participate in the assaults. Oh is likely to return to Korea voluntarily if Kim is arrested, police said.
By Shin Hae-in (email@example.com)