South Korean citizens have long demanded government policies to curtail the power of family-run conglomerates, known as chaebols. They may finally get their wish—if opposition parties win the presidential election.
Crony capitalism linked to chaebols is a major issue in Asia's fourth-largest economy, as reflected in an ongoing political scandal that threatens to impeach President Park Geun-hye. Park and her close friend, civilian Choi Soon-sil, are accused of pressuring the nation's biggest enterprises, including Samsung, Lotte, SK Group, and Hyundai, to contribute to foundations that backed Park's programs. Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong was accused of paying bribes worth $36.42 million to Choi but on Thursday, a Seoul judge dismissed a warrant to arrest him.
"Seriously tackling the chaebol will require political, not just legal, action. A lot of these executives have been convicted, only to be pardoned," Robert Kelly, associate professor at Pusan National University, told CNBC.