‘Slipshod’: First lady’s written statement on stock fraud case suggests she may be summoned for questioning

Posted on : 2024-06-05 17:02 KST Modified on : 2024-06-05 17:02 KST
Not long before her husband was elected president of Korea, Kim Keon-hee submitted a written statement to prosecutors regarding her alleged involvement in the manipulation of stock prices
Kim Keon-hee, the wife of President Yoon Suk-yeol. (pool photo)
Kim Keon-hee, the wife of President Yoon Suk-yeol. (pool photo)

Three months before Korea’s presidential election, in December 2021, Yoon Suk-yeol's wife Kim Keon-hee submitted a statement to prosecutors containing a one-sided explanation of her alleged involvement in the manipulation of Deutsch Motors stock prices, the Hankyoreh has discovered.  

The now-first lady’s testimony was mostly related to the first round of stock manipulation, which was judged to be outside the statute of limitations, so Kim will likely be summoned for questioning to confirm whether and to what extent she was involved in the second round of market manipulation, for which the statute of limitations is still valid. 

When asked about whether Kim should be summoned for questioning on Monday, Prosecutor General Lee One-seok stated, “Before the law, no one can be made into exceptions, given preferential treatment, or held sacred.” 

On Tuesday, the Hankyoreh interviewed several officials who had read Kim’s testimony. The interviews revealed that Kim’s testimony, which was submitted to the second anti-corruption division within the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, contains information about how she found out about Deutsch Motors, why she trusted someone with her account to invest in the company, how she sold her shares, and the brief account of her take on the whole affair. 

However, the testimony was general and contained allegations that were not corroborated, making it explanatory in nature. As such, this led some within the investigation team to ask that Kim be summoned for in-person questioning.  

“The written response was so slipshod that it was difficult to draw any conclusions about the investigation [into Kim],” said an official with the prosecution service familiar with the investigation. 

The testimony also describes the events that happened in the period before the first round of alleged stock manipulation (Dec. 23, 2009, to Oct. 20, 2010) and the second round (Oct. 21, 2010, to Dec. 7, 2012), but the bulk of the document focuses on the first former period. 

Information covering the second incident mostly described how she came to know the head of Black Pearl Invest, an individual surnamed Lee, who oversaw the manipulation of the car dealer’s stock prices, and how she came to trust him with her account. 

On Feb. 15, 2023, then-Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon stated before the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee that prosecutors “did not summon Kim for questioning, but took a written statement. 

Even so, some experts say that Kim can’t be seen as having been “questioned” since her testimony didn’t respond to any questions. That is, her testimony wasn’t written in response to questions sent by the investigation team, but instead contained a general description of the overall case. The investigators themselves declined to include specifics in their questions because of concerns about the investigation’s security. 

In February 2023, a Seoul Central District Court criminal panel convicted former Deutsch Motors Chairman Kwon Oh-soo for stock manipulation and sentenced him to two years in prison, suspended for three years. At the time of sentencing, the judge noted that four accounts owned by Kim and her mother, Choi Eun-sun, had been used for stock manipulation. In a statement submitted to the court, the prosecutors said the two women had earned profits of close to 2.3 billion won from trading Deutsch Motors stock. 

But a spokesperson with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office disputed this account of Kim’s testimony, saying that it was “not consistent with what we know about its length or testimony.” 

By Bae Ji-hyun, staff reporter; Jeon Gwang-joon, staff reporter; Jeong Hye-min, staff reporter 

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr


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