Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Keep your nose clean

Sixty-nine-year-old Daewoo founder and former chairman Kim Woo-joong [Kim Ujung] has been sentenced to ten years in prison for charges ranging from embezzlement and accounting fraud. He is also to forfeit $22 billion (ouch!) and pay a find of ten million won (not so ouch for him, though it would be ouch for me).

The court said a severe sentence was "unavoidable" since Kim was engaged in activities that contributed to Daewoo Group's bankruptcy and hurt South Korea's image abroad. The ruling also said, "It is doubtful whether Kim is truly repentant as he tries to dodge the responsibility and justify his actions."

As we all have learned, the way to avoid a harsh sentence in a Korean court is to repent, apologize and show contrition, and offer to make amends. Kim must have had a bad lawyer.

Anyway, we'll see just how long he ends up serving. I predict he'll be out by the Buddha's Birthday Amnesty in 2008. I would say that even a one- or two-year jail term, plus the forfeiture of loads of money, may be enough to deter some other CEOs from such activity in the future. Maybe.

Years ago, when I was still a teen, I was asked — well, no, it was
demanded — to tutor Kim Woo-joong's son and daughter in English in their opulent home.

The two told me that they were middle-class. What a hoot.

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