Hyundai Motor chairman accused of embezzlement faces trial

Chung, 68, dressed in a black-striped blue prison uniform, appeared in a courtroom of the Seoul District Court for the first hearing of the case that is gripping South Korea's largest automaker.

Chung is charged with embezzling company money to create a 103.4 billion won (US$109.3 million; euro85 million) fund that prosecutors suspect was used to bribe lobbyists to seek government favors. He is also accused of causing damage to his company by illegally supporting financially weak affiliates with money from other group members.

The tycoon has been in custody since his April arrest.

"I'm sorry for causing trouble and concern over this case," Chung told the court. "I didn't have time to look back ... as I have only looked forward while focusing on the goal of making a global carmaker."

Among the 200 people in the courtroom audience was Chung's son, Eui-son, president of Kia Motors, a Hyundai affiliate, the AP reports.

The 50-minute hearing ended after prosecutors and defense lawyers made their opening comments outlining their respective arguments. The next session is scheduled for June 12.

Summarizing the charges against Chung, prosecutors said that he personally instructed the creation of secret funds and used most of them "privately and abnormally." They didn't go into details on where the money was spent, saying investigations are still under way.