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Hyundai chairman may face probe

Prosecutors are investigating whether Hyundai, the country's top auto maker, and affiliates were involved in a local businessman's illegal lobbying.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2006 12:00 IST

The chairman of South Korea's Hyundai Motor group said on Saturday he would accept questioning by prosecutors, if necessary, over allegations the group was involved in illegal political lobbying.

Prosecutors are investigating whether Hyundai Motor Co, the country's top auto maker, and affiliates were involved in a local businessman's illegal lobbying. The head of an affiliate was arrested and offices of affiliates were searched.

"I will wait as the prosecution's investigation is going on. I will respond to the investigations any time," Hyundai Motor group chairman Chung Mong-koo told reporters on his return from a trip abroad, footage from major local television stations showed.

His departure on April 2 for a trip to the United States and Mexico had sparked speculation that the head of the world's seventh-biggest auto group might stay away for a long time to avoid questioning by the prosecution.

A senior prosecutor at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office told reporters on Friday Chung and his son Chung Eui-sun, the president of the group's Kia Motors Corp, could be summoned for questioning.

Prosecutors have barred Chung Eui-sun from leaving the country.

"I expect the schedule for summons to be set after our analysis into the seized materials is completed," senior prosecutor Chae Dong-wook told reporters on Friday.

Despite official denials, speculation has swirled in local financial markets that the probe could be expanded to include other major South Korean companies.

Shares in Hyundai, Korea's fifth-largest stock with a market value of $19.8 billion, closed down 1.26 per cent at 86,100 won on Friday, while Kia Motors lost 2.91 per cent to 20,050 won, underperforming the wider market's 0.38 per cent gain.