Cheil Office in Seoul Raided Amid South Korean Political Scandal

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Prosecutors raided a sports business division of South Korean advertising company Cheil Worldwide, the company confirmed. The raid in Seoul was reportedly part of a wider investigation into alleged corruption that has shaken the country's presidency.

Several Korean conglomerates, including Samsung Electronics Co. and Hyundai Motor Co,. have been swept into the crisis, an influence-peddling investigation centering on a longtime friend of South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Prosecutors are seeking to question the president as a witness, and hundreds of thousands of protesters in Seoul demanded her resignation over the weekend.

Choi Soon-Sil, a confidante of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, leaves the Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea.
Choi Soon-Sil, a confidante of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, leaves the Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea.  Credit: Getty Images

A spokeswoman for Cheil, Korea's largest agency company, said its sports strategy planning division in Seoul was raided, confirming a report by the country's Yonhap News Agency. She said the Cheil division was located inside Samsung Group's headquarters. (Cheil started out as the in-house ad agency for Samsung, and Samsung Electronics still has a stake in the advertising company.) The prosecutors took hard drives and accounting books, according to Yonhap's report.

Seoul-based Cheil Worldwide, which owns agencies including The Barbarian Group, McKinney and Iris, is the 17th largest global agency company, according to a ranking by Ad Age's Datacenter.

At the center of South Korea's scandal is Choi Soon-sil, the president's longtime confidante and informal adviser, who was taken into custody early this month on suspicion of attempted fraud and abuse of authority, Bloomberg News has reported.

Leaders at several major Korean corporations have faced questions from prosecutors over donations to two foundations run by Ms. Choi, according to the Yonhap report. Prosecutors are also looking at possible business favors given to Ms. Choi's niece. Cheil said it made no such donations.

Samsung Electronics' offices were raided earlier this month; Yonhap reported at the time that Samsung was suspected of providing about $3 million to a company owned by Ms. Choi and her daughter in Germany. The report, which did not cite its source, alleged the money was used to fund the daughter's equestrian training.