Two fugitive Korean underwear bosses arrested in Thailand

Police arrested two wanted Korean fugitives – the former and current chairman of the Ssangbangwool Group – on a golf course in Thailand yesterday after eight months on the run.

According to prosecutors in South Korea, the pair were arrested by Thai police on a golf course in Pathum Thani province just north of Bangkok at 7.30pm.

South Korean prosecutors suspect that the former chairman Kim Seong-tae is central to several high-profile corruption scandals within the underwear company. He is facing several corruption charges including embezzlement, violations of the capital markets act, and transfer of cash remittances to North Korea.

Kim is suspected of inciting dozens of people, including Ssangbangwool employees, to smuggle around US$6.4 million to China between 2018-19 and transfer it to North Korea.

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He is also suspected of paying the attorney expenses of Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the Democratic Party, with company funds when Lee was being prosecuted for violating the election law in 2018 during his term as governor of Gyeonggi Province.

The allegations occurred while Kim was still chairman of the conglomerate.

Kim fled South Korea in May, some eight months ago, when he was being investigated for embezzlement. He went to Singapore before hiding out in Thailand.

Thai police also arrested the current Chairman of the Ssangbangwool Group, Yang Seon-gil, on the golf course, who fled Korea at a similar time to Kim.

After the pair fled South Korea, prosecutors put out Interpol red notices for their arrests, froze high-value stocks owned by Kim under fake names, and invalidated their passports.

Korean officials are working with Thai police to extradite Kim and Yang to South Korea as soon as possible.

Over 20 years ago, the Ssangbangwool Group owned a professional baseball team called the Ssangbangwool Raiders. However, the team was dissolved in 2000 when the Ssangbangwool Group went into bankruptcy.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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