The heads of South Korea's top conglomerates including the Samsung and Lotte Groups were questioned on Tuesday in an unprecedented parliamentary hearing into the political scandal that appears poised to bring down President Park Geun-hye.
A parliamentary panel is investigating whether the conglomerates, known as chaebol, were pressured by Park or a friend and aide to give money to two non-profit foundations backing Park's policies in exchange for special treatment.
Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee, who sat at the center of the witness table, said Park had asked him during a one-on-one meeting for support for boosting cultural and sports-related developments but did not specifically request money.
"There are often requests from various parts of society including for culture and sports. We have never contributed seeking quid pro quo. This case was the same," Lee said, adding that he was embarrassed by the situation and was appearing with a "heavy heart."
Samsung donated 20.4 billion won ($17.46 million) to the two foundations, the most of any group, and prosecutors raided its offices last month.