S. Korean scandal stems from Eli’s fight

South Korean business tycoon Kim Seung Youn made national headlines Sunday in an incident that Seoul-based newspaper Dong-a-Ilbo equated to “an underworld gang movie,” in which Kim and his bodyguards allegedly seized and beat a group of bar workers last month in revenge for a brawl with his son, Dongwon Kim ’09.

In the earlier brawl involving Kim’s son, which took place in the early hours of March 8, Dongwon Kim reportedly suffered an 10-centimeter-long cut near his eye, requiring 11 stitches. Kim Seung Youn, the CEO of Hanwa group, South Korea’s ninth-largest business corporation, is alleged to have later abducted six bar employees and taken them to a mountainous region south of Seoul where he threatened and beat them. He was reportedly accompanied by his bodyguards and armed with steel pipes and electric shock devices.

Later in the day, both father and son also reportedly sought out Dongwon’s assailant — who was not in the group abducted by the elder Kim — in a bar he worked at in Central Seoul. Dongwon allegedly hit the man in the face and on the legs under his father’s instruction, while the elder Kim used his hands and feet to strike another waiter, breaking his ribs, reports said.

Kim reportedly brandished a pistol, but police reports have not confirmed whether weapons were used directly in the assault.

“I am very sorry for causing trouble over a personal issue,” Kim said to reporters upon his arrival at a police station in South Korea, where he was questioned Sunday. “Investigations will reveal who is the real victim of the case.”

The Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency quoted him as saying he would “clear any allegations surrounding [him] during the police investigation.”

On Sunday, Kim told reporters that he had never heard of the attack and declined to answer further questions.

Police issued an order April 26 banning the elder Kim from leaving the country. A similar ban that would have limited his son’s movement out of the country was vetoed. The younger Kim, an East Asian Studies major in Branford College, reportedly left South Korea for China following the incident, but flew back to the country Monday, Hanwa spokeswoman Ju Cheol-Beom said.

Dongwon is currently on a Yale-sponsored student exchange program at Seoul National University and declined to comment on the incident.

The police refused to comment on why the details of the case remained concealed for over 50 days, but denied allegations of having deliberately covered them up.

Ju said Kim’s questioning — originally scheduled to last for two hours — dragged on for over 10 hours.

“He denies all suspicions,” she said.

Under South Korean law, Kim could face up to three years in prison if law enforcement officials decide he was directly involved in the incident.

Kim is South Korea’s 10th-richest man, and his conglomeration is estimated to be worth $850 million by Chaebul.com, a Korean Web site that charts the fortunes of the country’s business tycoons. The Hanwa Group’s image is taking a serious hit as speculations circulate about the event, a local newspaper reported.

The details of the case have gripped the country, which has an economy largely controlled by family-owned conglomerates such as Kim’s.

“We expect the police to make a thorough investigation into this case, so as not to leave any room for public doubt,” South Korean President Moo-Hyun Roh’s office said in a statement Saturday.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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