South Korean whistleblower Kim Yong-chul, who has written a book about his efforts to expose alleged corruption and greed at Samsung, faces censure and isolation.
Guksu, South Korea
The career of Kim Yong-chul began imploding six years ago when he quit as chief lawyer for the Samsung Group, by far South Korea's largest or conglomerate, in rage and frustration over the corporate corruption and greed he says he saw around him.
Once famed as a prosecutor who had won the conviction of a former president, Gen. Chun Doo-hwan, on corruption charges, he crusaded against his onetime employers – and nearly brought down Samsung's top boss and Korea's richest man, Lee Kun-hee.
Mr. Lee, convicted for tax evasion and placed on probation, got a full pardon in December from Korea's conservative President Lee Myung-bak, a onetime top executive of the Hyundai group.
Now Lee rides high again, restored as chairman of Samsung Electronics, the centerpiece of the group, which employs 170,000 people of the 270,000 in an empire that accounts for one-fifth of Korea's gross domestic product. And his son, Lee Jae-yong, banished in the scandal to a post in China, now is Samsung Electronics' chief operating officer, on course to take over.
Mr. Kim's one-man crusade makes him an anomaly in a Confucian society in which obedience to parents and teachers is ingrained in childhood. On a broader level, he's a pariah in a highly conservative culture in which employees at other companies deride him for betraying his bosses, the system – and, in a sense, the country, and the corporate structure that keeps it afloat.
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