Embezzlement Trial Underway for Hyundai Motor Chairman

SEOUL, South Korea -- A South Korean court opened a high-profile corruption trial Thursday against the chairman of Hyundai Motor Company. Chung Mong-koo is accused of embezzling company money to create a slush fund for bribing political lobbyists.

The 68-year-old Chung, dressed in a blue prison uniform, appeared in court for the first hearing of the case that is gripping South Korea's largest automaker. Chung is charged with embezzling company money to create a $109 million fund that prosecutors suspect was used to bribe lobbyists to seek government favors. The tycoon has been in custody since his April arrest.

Among the dozens of people in the courtroom was Chung's son, Eui-son, president of Kia Motors, a Hyundai affiliate. The 50-minute hearing ended after prosecutors and defense lawyers made their opening arguments. The next session is scheduled for June 12th.

Chung's attorneys also asked the court to release Chung on bail. Since Chung's arrest, Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors indefinitely postponed groundbreaking ceremonies for the construction of new plants in the Czech Republic and West Point, Georgia.

The Korean automaker operates a huge vehicle assembly plant in Montgomery.

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