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South Korean conglomerate boss convicted of rape

The former chief of a South Korean conglomerate was convicted of raping his maid and sexually assaulting a secretary Friday but only given a suspended sentence.

Kim Jun-ki, the 75-year-old ex-chairman of DB Group, which has activities in finance and steel, repeatedly violated the two women, the Seoul Central District Court found.

But it gave him a 30-month jail sentence suspended for four years, on the grounds of his age and what it said was the “forgiveness” of his victims.

South Korea’s economy is dominated by a number of family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebol. They are credited with a key role in powering the country’s economic growth, but are also accused of murky connections to power.

Kim was DB Group’s chairman at the time of the offences in 2016-17, and admitted most of the charges.

“Even though Kim was in the position of a conglomerate leader who needed to show socially exemplary behaviour, he forgot such responsibilities and assaulted his secretary and housemaid several times,” the court said, describing his crimes as “bad”.

Kim, who had been in custody, was released after the hearing. Prosecutors had sought a five-year sentence.

Critics accuse the country’s courts of showing leniency to chaebol family members.

Previously, leaders of the Hyundai Motor, Samsung and SK groups have been given suspended sentences, and later presidential pardons.

Their offences were generally financial, such as corruption, tax evasion or embezzlement, and charges of sexual offences against chaebol chiefs are unusual.

Many of the conglomerates have highly hierarchical, rigid management structures and an opaque governance style that can enable workplace abuse.

In one high-profile case, a Korean Air heiress threw a temper tantrum over how she was served macadamias, making a crew member kneel on the floor to beg forgiveness and ordering the aircraft back to the gate so he could be thrown off, earning herself instant “nut rage” notoriety.

Published on 03.01.2023

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