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Written by: Staff

Seoul, Apr 24: Chung Mong-koo, the chairman of Hyundai Motor Co., appeared at the office of South Korean rosecutors on Monday for questioning over a probe into alleged illegal political lobbying at the group.

Prosecutors are investigating whether the Hyundai group operated slush funds and offered cash for political favours via a lobbyist.

''I apologises to the people,'' the 68-year-old Chung told reporters, shortly before entering the Supreme Prosecutors' Office.

His comments were televised by YTN, a local cable news channel.

Unsettled by the probe, shares in Hyundai and affiliate Kia Motors Corp. fell 2.73 percent to 85,600 won by 0124 GMT, while affiliate Kia also sagged 3.23 percent to 19,450 won, underperforming the broader market's 1.47 percent drop.

The stocks were also hit by a firm won currency and higher oil prices, analysts said.

The country's biggest car group apologised on Wednesday over the bribery scandal and said its chairman's family would donate their entire stake in a car shipping affiliate, Glovis, worth $1 billion to charity.

Prosecutors have said the donation would not alter the course of the investigation.

The probe also touches on how the country's sprawling family-run conglomerates, or chaebol, shift money within group companies, using complex share ownership networks to control their businesses.

Last week prosecutors questioned Chung Eui-sun, the son of Chung Mong-koo and the president of Kia.

Hyundai, which makes the popular Sonata sedans, aims to grow to the world's fifth-largest auto maker by 2010 along with Kia from the No.7 currently.

Three men have so far been arrested as part of the probe and some Hyundai executives have been barred from travelling abroad.

Prosecutors have also questioned Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Kim Dong-jin, who received a suspended two-year jail term in 2004 for playing a key role in raising a slush fund to support politicians in the 2002 presidential election.

Chung Mong-koo is the eldest son of the late Chung Ju-yung, who founded the Hyundai Group in 1947 and Hyundai Motor in 1967.

The current chairman took control of Hyundai Motor in 1999 from his uncle Chung Se-yung, who had helped it grow from a small local car maker into one of the world's major auto players.

Shares in Glovis tumbled 5.59 percent to 32,100 won.


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