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It looks like Samsung's streets may have a little slush problem, but some South Korean politicians don't seem to mind the corruption

Samsung is a well known name in America and abroad for dominating multiple electronics fields, manufacturing products such as speedy SSDs, high-tech TVs, and trendy cell phones.  Samsung is a South Korean company and is the nation's largest conglomerate.  It accounts for an incredible one sixth of South Korea's GDP with its 58 affiliates posting combined sales of $159 billion USD last year.

Samsung is known in South Korea by the term "chaebol", which means a family owned conglomerate.

Now if allegations from one of its former top legal executives hold true, it appears as if Samsung behaved more like a mafia family rather than a respectable business, retaining a massive slush fund with which to bribe or otherwise influence government officials.  According to Kim Yong-cheol, former top legal executive, Samsung had used its subsidiaries to create a massive slush fund with over 200 billion won ($215.8 million USD) in assets.

Samsung currently has refused to comment on the charges.

Yong-cheol states that he is determined to blow the whistle on his former employer’s illegal and improper activities. "Samsung has created a large-scale slush fund," he stated at a press conference he called.

Yong-cheol and others have accused Samsung of impropriety on a number of recent occasions.  Yong-cheol's past allegations had centered on how Samsung had routinely made a business practice of bribing prosecutors and politicians to quash investigations about dirty business dealings.

His new allegation certainly tops these previous ones, though.  He says that he personally handled documents which detailed how money was being channeled into this slush fund.  Some of the money was then used to buy artwork while some money would be withdrawn from the fund for bribery and other illicit activities.

There has been increasing concern about Samsung's relationship with South Korea's government, which seems a bit too cozy for many people's comfort.  Many top South Korean government officials have been heavily funded by Samsung and corruption is so commonplace that it makes problems in the American political system seem of the garden variety.

Not all are content to be on Samsung's payroll, though.  Last week, South Korea's parliament passed a measure to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the Samsung group.

The bill includes provisions to investigate President Roh Moo-hyun who won the public election in 2002, and allegedly used illegal contributions from Samsung during his campaign.

Unfortunately, in a show of audacity Roh, who has three months left in office, is planning on vetoing the bill.  Over the weekend he spoke publicly denying the widespread claims that he had received money as a congratulatory gift from Samsung in 2002.

Prosecutors are putting together a team of about 55 people to look into the allegations about the slush fund.

While Samsung certainly has a steely grip on South Korea's government, its actions have been at times so blatant that several of its officials have been convicted of corruption charges.  It should be intriguing to see if the Parliament's action is a sign of progress or simply a useless political gesture.

In the U.S. Samsung has been fined for price fixing its DRAM.  In Korea, Samsung also recently admitted to plagiarizing artwork from both Microsoft and Apple.





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