SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Police questioned one of South Korea’s richest men Sunday following media reports that he and his bodyguards abducted and beat eight people after his son was hurt in a scuffle with bar employees.

Kim Seung-youn, chairman and CEO of the Hanwha Group, South Korea’s ninth-largest business conglomerate, and his bodyguards allegedly seized the men last month and took them to a mountainous area south of Seoul where they were threatened and beaten, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Saturday.

Kim and the bodyguards were armed with steel pipes and shock devices, the paper said.

Kim, 55, and his son, Kim Dong-won, later assaulted another man at gunpoint in a bar in central Seoul, the paper said.

That man was allegedly one of several off-duty bar employees who were involved in the scuffle with 22-year-old Kim Dong-won in southern Seoul on March 8. The son required 11 stitches after the altercation.

Numerous other major papers carried similar reports with victims alleging Kim and his bodyguards were responsible for the attacks.

Police refused to discuss the case Sunday, confirming only that the elder Kim was prohibited from leaving the country. His son has left South Korea for China, but was due back on Monday, according to Hanwha spokesman Ju Cheol-beom.

Kim, who agreed to be questioned after reportedly refusing earlier summonses by police, said he would “clear any allegations surrounding me during the police investigation,” according to the Yonhap news agency.

“I am very sorry for causing trouble over a personal issue,” Kim told reporters as he arrived at the police station Sunday.

Ju said Kim “denies all suspicions” surrounding his involvement in the case.

Details of the case have become front-page news in South Korea, where family-controlled conglomerates dominate the economy. In a Saturday editorial, the mass-circulation Dong-a Ilbo newspaper likened the case to an “underworld gang movie.”

Kim, South Korea’s 10th-richest man, is worth about $850 million, according to Chaebul.com, a Web site that tracks the fortunes of the country’s conglomerate chiefs and their families.

Hanwha was established in 1952 as the Korea Explosives Corp. It later developed interests in petrochemicals, finance, insurance, construction and retail. It also owns the Hanwha Eagles professional baseball team.

The younger Kim is a student at Yale University.



Associated Press Writer Kwang-tae Kim contributed to this report.

AP-ES-04-29-07 2053EDT


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