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Learning English - Words in the News
05 February, 2007 - Published 13:31 GMT
Hyundai chairman sentenced to three years
Chung Mong-Koo
Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-Koo

The chairman of Hyundai Motors, one of South Korea's largest companies, has been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on corruption charges. Chung Mong-Koo was accused of taking about a hundred million dollars from companies associated with Hyundai. This report from Charles Scanlon:

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The sixty-eight year old businessman arrived in court through a gauntlet of press photographers. The trial has been closely watched in South Korea, where it’s been seen as a test of the court's commitment to tackle corporate corruption.

The judge imposed a three-year jail term. He said a stiff sentence was necessary to change past business practices and to help Korea develop into an advanced economy. But the sentence was still three years short of the six demanded by the prosecution. The judge said he’d taken into account Mr Chung's contributions to the national economy and his donations to charity. In the past the courts have treated similar cases with great leniency but there’s been growing pressure from the government and the public to impose stiffer penalties.

Chung Mong-Koo was accused of amassing multi-million dollar slush funds to pay off politicians and government officials. The money was also used to smooth the way for his son to take control of the group. Hyundai Motors is one of South Korea's largest and most successful companies. A spokesman expressed disappointment at the sentence. The company had appealed for leniency, saying in effect it couldn't manage without the presence of its chairman.

Listen to the words

a gauntlet
an attack from both sides

severe; strong

three years short of
three years less than

taken into account
thought about (before making a decision)

lack of severity

collecting a large amount

slush funds
quantities of money kept for illegal use

pay off

smooth the way for
make (something in the future) easier

in effect
the reality was

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