UPDATE : 2019.9.21 SAT 10:58
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Preliminary hearing set this week for jailed Lotte chief's appeal

An appeals court is set to hold the first preliminary hearing for the head of South Korea's retail giant Lotte in a massive bribery scandal that removed the country's leader from office last year, industry and legal sources said Sunday.

In February, a Seoul court sentenced the business tycoon to two and a half years in prison for giving 7 billion won (US$6.7 million) in bribes to a foundation run by ex-President Park Geun-hye's friend in return for business favors.

The Seoul High Court will begin preparation procedures on Shin along with other defendants in the case, including Park's friend, Choi Soon-sil, on Wednesday.

Shin has recently hired a judge-turned-lawyer to join his defense counsel to brace for the upcoming appeals trial, sources said.

The imprisonment of Shin has effectively created a leadership vacuum at the country's fifth-largest conglomerate by sales as the company is striving to put operations in China back on track after being hit hard by a diplomatic row between Seoul and Beijing last year.

The business group has been strengthening its executives' on-site managerial activities, meeting with institutional investors to explain the situation faced by the company and its strategies to overcome the crisis.

In this file photo taken on Feb. 13, 2018, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin is taken to a vehicle bound for prison at the Seoul Central District Court in the capital. Shin was immediately taken into custody after the court sentenced him to 2 1/2 years of imprisonment for giving bribes to President Park Geun-hye's close friend, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for business favors. The court also ordered the tycoon to forfeit 7 billion won (US$698 million), the amount he gave in bribes. (Yonhap)

Last month, Shin was reappointed as a board member of the business group's key affiliates -- Lotte Shopping Co. and Lotte Confectionery Co. -- during their regular shareholders' meetings.

Founded in 1948 in Japan, Lotte entered South Korea in 1967 and grew into the country's fifth-largest conglomerate, driven by its success in the retail, food and amusement businesses. Its sprawling empire now includes chemicals, duty-free shops, finance and construction, with a global workforce of 125,000. (Yonhap)

Kim Jung-mi  edt@koreapost.com

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