Analysts say prosecutors will go after Lotte or Hyundai next if a clear trail of evidence is found. The offices of Lotte and SK Group were raided in November as part of the probe but no charges have yet been made. Lotte chairman Shin Dong-bin was indicted in October for a separate corruption investigation involving financial crimes, but avoided arrest.
Kelly, like many others, believe chaebol reform will finally materialize when the public elects a left-leaning president.
"A new government under a left-of-center president would likely accelerate efforts to achieve that goal," echoed Scott Seaman, senior Asia analyst at Eurasia, in a recent note. Opposition parties, such as the Minjoo Party of Korea and the People's Party, have long been discussing legislation to strengthen anti-monopoly and fair trade laws aimed at reducing the excessive wealth and influence of chaebols, he explained.
An election for the five-year single-term presidency is scheduled for Dec. 20 but if a court approves Park's impeachment motion, elections could be held within the next 60 days. The country's Constitutional Court has until June 21 to make a decision.
The leftist candidates in the running include Moon Jae-in from the opposition Democratic Party and Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung of the opposition Minjoo Party. According to a Real Meter poll of 2,525 surveyed adults released on Jan. 9, Moon obtained an approval rating of 26.8 percent, the highest among any candidate.
Park's conservative Saenuri party on the other hand may be less willing to crack down on chaebols as it has traditionally been closer to the nation's family dynasties, flagged Kelly.
Chaebols dominate the Korean economy, with each company operating a range of diverse businesses. Hyundai for example is home to the world's 5th largest automaker, the 15th largest container shipping firm and the 13th biggest steel producer in addition to manufacturing construction equipment and solar panels, among other goods.