FOR the South Korean public, the sight of nine of their most powerful business chiefs, who are rarely seen, submitting to a day-long grilling by South Korean MPs on December 6th was remarkable (eight of them are pictured). During the hearing, broadcast live on television, the heads of CJ, LG, Hanwha, SK, Samsung, Lotte, Hanjin, GS Group and Hyundai, all family-owned conglomerates, or chaebol, denied they had sought favours in return for the billions of won they paid into two foundations controlled by Choi Soon-sil, a former confidante of President Park Geun-hye. (As The Economist went to press, Ms Park faced an impeachment motion by parliament over her ties to Ms Choi.) Samsung’s Lee Jae-yong, whose 20.4bn won ($17.6m) grant was the biggest, was the most intensively interrogated. On many minds was the last time big bosses were thus summoned, during an inquiry in 1988 into the corporate funding of a foundation run by then-dictator Chun Doo-hwan. Six of those tycoons’ sons were among those testifying this week.