Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 7, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

CHUTZPAH WATCH....From the foreign news file:

Convicted of embezzling $110 million, Hyundai Chairman Chung Mong-koo was deemed too important to South Korea's economy to be sent to prison, an appeals court ruled late Thursday.

....In reversing Chung's sentence, presiding Judge Lee Jae-hong told a packed courtroom in Seoul, "I was unwilling to engage in a gamble that would put the nation's economy at risk," according to the Associated Press.

....Hyundai managers say Chung is a hands-on executive, and his absence while he was in jail last year, as well as the turmoil the case caused, held up important projects and decisions.

See? That's why U.S. manufacturing is falling behind our South Korean rivals: we're too tough on our white collar criminals. Ken Lay should have tried this defense.

Kevin Drum 12:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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The reverse side of the coin is that if political blogging is banned, there will be a substantial increase in the productivity of white collar workers, and the grades of graduate students will shoot up, who will take considerably less time to finish their languishing dissertations.

Posted by: gregor on September 7, 2007 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

He got off scooter free!

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 7, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad some judge didn't rule back in 2000 that george W. Bush was too important to the Texas Rangers to allow him to become president.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on September 7, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on September 7, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

His hands were on the $110 million.

Still, he's no Viceroy Jerry.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on September 7, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

I feel the same way about my beloved leader, George Bush - He is far too important to our security not to have President for Life bestowed upon him by a greatful nation.

Toady for Life, Al in drag.

Posted by: Al in drag on September 7, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Meanwhile in Denmark"

Yes, mhr, do tell us about your recent operation in Denmark. Lots of pink in the recovery room?

Posted by: stupid git on September 7, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

So what's to stop him from running down the streets of Seoul naked, beating orphans to death while smoking crack?

Posted by: Tom Veil on September 7, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Mhr leads such a sad little life. He/she/it is jumping up and down right now and shouting "I got a comment in". So sad.

Posted by: R.L. on September 7, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

I think this is what "Professor" Steven Bainbridge calls a happy ending.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on September 7, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Too rich to convict! Well, at least they're more honest about it than we are in the UK and US. I remember some American researchers got excited about the news that Ernest Saunders had—unprecedently—actually recovered from Alzheimer's disease in England. Sadly, we had to explain to them that he had "suffered" from the incurable degenerating disease just long enough to have his sentence cut short by a sympathetic rich conservative judge.

Meanwhile the poor waste away in prison untreated and unparoled, and leave in a box, because they're obviously trying it on.

Posted by: derek on September 7, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Jaysus Kevin. Don't give them any ideas.

Posted by: jm on September 7, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

If only Leona had been able to have that Judge - She might have accumulated more funds to leave to Trouble.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 7, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

How could anybody buy Hyundai products after this. Basically this criminal gets off scott free after embezzling millions. What the fuck.

Posted by: Gandalf on September 7, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Especially now that UCLA blocks Craigslist.

Posted by: jerry on September 7, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

White collar crime costs the nation far more than blue collar crime. Estimates range from $300 to 600 billion (with a “b”) annually. I’m just sayin’…

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 7, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Thank God we don't have that kind of draconian, Taliban-style justice in the U.S., where defense contractors are free to collect billions and billions in corruption without embarrassment.


Posted by: Luther on September 7, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Luther :)

Posted by: opit on September 7, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Korea is an interesting country to do biz. First, the corps there are like fiefdoms, and the CEOs are idolized and play the role of parent to all their employees. Integral to Korean culture is the concept of social hierarchies and deferring to one's "betters". Second, not only doing business, but also getting justice done, is all about who you know, and how far back those relationships go. Eg, I wouldn't be surprised if Chung and Lee went to the same HS.

Posted by: Disputo on September 7, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Wonder how much $$$$$ the judge got/will get. And of course there is the crony thing as Disputo mentions.

"Interesting" times indeed.

"The wind blows over the surface of the lake. In this way, the effects of the invisible are made visible." - I Ching

Posted by: daCasacadian on September 7, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Sped read once again - Was the name of that judge, Ka-Ching?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 7, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

There was a documentary on PBS a year or two ago where they visited North Korea (which was bizarre, by the way).

They also went to South Korea to interview the founder of a car company there, I suspect Hyundai. The day they interviewed him there happened to be a parade in his honor outside his house. They said that this was a frequent occurrence. I believe they said he was the biggest national hero of South Korea.

I'm not going to bother to try to find out if it was the same guy, but those South Koreans seem to really worship some of their industrialists.

Posted by: jefff on September 7, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

If you think that's chutzpah, you should check out the Swisssair bankruptcy trial, Kevin.

Posted by: ogmb on September 7, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Ken Lay should have tried this defense.

What difference would it have made? He didn't spend a day in prison, anyway. Lucky bastard, RIP.

Posted by: Grumpy on September 7, 2007 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Awwww....I thought Korea was better at rule of law than this.

Of course--it's not like we're that good at it anymore either.

Posted by: Justin Slotman on September 7, 2007 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Look, here we make this sort of thing nice and legal. South Korea doesn't pay their CEOs as much as we do, so of course they need to dip into the till to keep up.

I mean, really.

Posted by: idlemind on September 7, 2007 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

The key difference between Chung Mong-koo & his Chairmanly counterparts in the West is that he embezzled (slightly less) money than Western CEOs would have given themselves in bonuses. And, unlike many of his Western counterparts, based both on Hyundais huge profits & how badly his absence was felt - he possibly actually DESERVED a big bonus.

A little-known fact about Korea (which I visit often) is that it's workers are not only INCREDIBLY productive (their shipbuilding, heavy industry & ports have to be seen to be believed- jaw-droppingly massive) they're also extremely well paid & lavishly benefited. They have powerful unions & the discrepancy between worker & CEO renumeration is far less than in the West. Unlike the other new Asian tiger economies - India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia etc, Korea's distribution of its' newfound wealth is surprisingly equitable.

Posted by: DanJoaquinOz on September 8, 2007 at 6:00 AM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile...50 months in Club Fed for failing to file taxes on hundreds of millions...

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread." - Anatole France

Posted by: MsNThrope on September 8, 2007 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK
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