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Hyundai Motor chairman renews vow to make large public donation

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Hyundai Motor Co. chairman Chung Mong-koo, appealing an embezzlement conviction and prison sentence, on Tuesday affirmed his promise to donate one trillion won (US$1.1 billion) worth of personal assets to society.

Chung, who made the pledge last year as part of a public apology and attempt to earn leniency amid a slush fund scandal, said the money will be donated to the public through an independent committee over the next seven years. The committee will be set up by end of this year, he said.

Chung made the comments during questioning by his lawyer at the Seoul High Court during his appeal hearing over a February conviction for embezzling company funds to set up a slush fund. He also answered questions about the donation plan from the presiding judge.

The donated money will be used to build an opera house in Seoul and 12 other cultural complexes across the country, Chung told the court. Chung said he hopes that the funds will be used in projects that can help prevent global warming.

Chung, one of South Korea's richest men, was sentenced to three years in jail for embezzling the equivalent of more than $100 million in company funds and breach of trust.

He remains free during the appeal and continues to run the company, the world's sixth-largest automaker.

Chung told the court that he has already given 60 billion won ($64.5 million) in cash to a charity and another 60 billion won will be offered within a year.

Chung was not the only one to offer public donations last year aimed at improving corporate image.

The Samsung Group, which includes Samsung Electronics Co., said it would donate 800 billion won ($860 million) in corporate and private assets to charity as part of an apology over several scandals.

Samsung spokesman Yim Jun-seok confirmed Tuesday that the donation was carried out last year.

U.S. private equity group Lone Star Funds also said it would donate 100 billion won ($107.5 million) as a ``social contribution'' to the South Korean people. The announcement came amid an investigation into suspected tax and currency irregularities against the Dallas-based group and negative public sentiment toward foreign investment funds.

Lone Star Funds officials were not immediately available for comment.

A fourth round of Chung's appeal hearing was scheduled for June 5.

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Hyundai Motor chairman renews vow to make large public donation
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