How Panama Papers changed South Korea

We speak with Newstapa’s Boyoung Lim from South Korea about how the Panama Papers affected South Korea.

To celebrate the third anniversary of the Panama Papers we’re speaking with reporters from around the world about the investigation, the impact and their experience. This week, we kick off with Boyoung Lim from South Korea.

Boyoung works for Newstapa, a nonprofit investigative journalism center based in Seoul that – among other findings – exposed the son of South Korea’s former president Roh Tae-woo and his array of shell companies in tax havens. Here’s what she had to say about how the investigation changed South Korea (and her):

What were you doing when the story came out and how did it affect you personally?

I was working as an investigator in the police cybercrime squad at the time. I admit that it was the first time I learned the word (and the concept of) “offshore.”

What about the Panama Papers has stuck with you the most?

The finding on the former president’s son owning offshore shell companies probably played a role in changing the way I view money and power. The fact people who benefited from dictatorships abuse the global system to hide their wealth in secrecy jurisdictions made me aware of the prevalent injustice in our society, hidden from our views unless exposed by journalists.

Join ICIJ Insiders

Do you believe journalism can make a difference?
For just $15/month you can help expose the truth and hold the powerful to account.

How was the investigation received in South Korea?

Koreans were shocked to learn that sons of former presidents and corporate conglomerates have been running shell companies in offshore jurisdictions. Newstapa’s investigations triggered a wave of reports and stories on offshore tax evasion from other media outlets.

Did it change the way Korean people understand “offshore” or tax policies?

Now many Koreans understand that the secrecy provided by offshore jurisdictions hurts the national economy and damages social justice and welfare. Now tax justice is implemented as a major policy direction for the new Korean government.

What changed for Newstapa after you participated in the Panama Papers?

Now we are recognized by the public as a media outlet that contributes to tax justice by working on the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers. Our journalists are very proud of working with ICIJ and other global partners.

Panama Papers

Panama Papers wins UK’s Investigation of the Decade award

Jan 06, 2022

Panama says it doesn’t deserve to be considered an offshore tax haven. Here’s what experts say.

Dec 07, 2021
Panama Papers

Germany seeks arrest of senior Panama Papers lawyer

Nov 11, 2021

Malta responsible for assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, inquiry finds

Jul 30, 2021
Reporters convene during a trip to Bermuda for Paradise Papers.

How reporting for ICIJ prepared me to become a certified anti-money laundering specialist

Jul 07, 2021
ICIJ team meeting

A decade of digital evolution to help reporting revolutions at ICIJ 

May 25, 2021
ICIJ is dedicated to ensuring all reports we publish are accurate. If you believe you have found an inaccuracy let us know.