Korean political scandal gives vitamin drink a boost

Kwangdong Pharmaceuticals

As a corruption scandal involving South Korea's top politicians rages on, the manufacturer of a popular beverage has emerged as an unexpected beneficiary.

Sales of "Vita 500", a vitamin drink made by South Korea's Kwangdong Pharmaceuticals, soared following reports that Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo received bribe money in a cardboard Vita 500 box. The Prime Minister allegedly received 30 million won (approximately $28,000) from a now deceased businessman during a by-election campaign in April 2013.

According to English-language newspaper Korea Times, sales of Vita 500 surged more than 40 percent since the news broke on April 15.

Shares of Kwangdong Pharmaceutical also jumped, up 24 percent over the past five trading sessions. Early Wednesday, the stock rose an additional 3.7 percent to hit all-time highs, outpacing a 0.5 percent gain in the broader Kospi index.

South Korea PM resigns amid bribery scandal
South Korea PM resigns amid bribery scandal

The high-profile political scandal was triggered by the suicide of Sung Wan-jong, former chairman of construction firm Keangnam Enterprises, on April 9. In his suicide note, Sung admitted to giving political funds to a number of top officials in President Park Geun-Hye's administration, including Prime Minister Lee and chief of staff Lee Byung-kee.

Lee, who has only been Prime Minister for two months, offered to resign on late Monday. According to a report by Yonhap News Agency citing anonymous party officials, the president, who is currently in Peru on a four-nation tour of South America, was likely to accept the resignation.

The scandal comes at an inopportune time for the ruling party, which is still reeling from the Sewol ferry disaster that claimed over 300 lives one year ago this week. Park's popularity levels remain stuck below 40 percent after touching a record low of 29 percent in February, according to Gallup Korea.

Despite the jump in Vita 500 sales and Kwangdong's share prices, the company is keeping a low profile: "As we are completely unrelated to the case, we have nothing to tell. Although people are very interested on our product, we have no further plan to promote the product."

— CNBC's Nyshka Chandran contributed to this report