Millions watched in astonishment as a televised hearing yesterday showed the leaders of South Korea's eight largest conglomerates being publicly harangued over donations their companies made to dubious foundations controlled by Choi Soon Sil, a close friend of President Park Geun Hye.
The powerful tycoons stammered and squirmed under the verbal assault from Members of Parliament.
The following is a sample of the exchange involving de facto Samsung chief Lee Jae Yong:
"Do you know anything?" one legislator chided Mr Lee as he repeatedly claimed ignorance of who in Samsung authorised cash transfers to a foundation in Germany that funded the equestrian training of Choi's daughter.
"Do you think you're doing a good job as the head of a global company like Samsung by saying that you don't know?" the legislator demanded.
The vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics and de facto head of the entire Samsung Group looked deeply uncomfortable as he sought to bat away questions with what sounded like rehearsed expressions of remorse and contrition.
"I have so many weaknesses and Samsung has things to correct," Mr Lee responded when asked if he agreed with the public perception that the conglomerates, known as chaebols, had knowingly connived with Choi.
"This crisis made me realise that we need to change ourselves," Mr Lee added, ignoring demands to answer the question and prompting one exasperated committee member to shout: "Stop giving ridiculous answers and excuses!"