By Se Young Lee and Yun Hwan Chae SEOUL (Reuters) - The heads of South Korea's top conglomerates including the Samsung and Lotte Groups were questioned on Tuesday in an unprecedented parliamentary hearing into the political scandal that appears poised to bring down President Park Geun-hye. A parliamentary panel is investigating whether the conglomerates, known as chaebol, were pressured by Park or a friend and aide to give money to two non-profit foundations backing Park's policies in exchange for special treatment. Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee, who sat at the center of the witness table, said Park had asked him during a one-on-one meeting for support for boosting cultural and sports-related developments but did not specifically request money.
The publicity-shy heads of South Korea's largest conglomerates faced their worst nightmare on Tuesday, as they were publicly grilled about possible corrupt practices before an audience of millions. The eight men summoned to appear before a cross-party parliamentary committee probing an influence-peddling scandal engulfing President Park Geun-Hye are among the wealthiest and most influential in the country. The witness list was a who's who of South Korea's business elite -- including Samsung Electronics vice-chairman and chief-in-waiting Lee Jae-Yong, Hyundai Motors chairman Chung Mong-Koo and Lotte chairman Shin Dong-Bin.