Samsung removes online cartoons after anti-Semitism row

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A Samsung company on Wednesday removed online cartoons attacking a U.S. hedge fund's founder as a ravenous, big-beaked vulture after Jewish organizations protested similar smears in South Korea's media.

The hedge fund, Elliott, is opposing a takeover deal between two Samsung companies that critics say will ensure the current generation of Samsung's founding family retains control over South Korea's biggest conglomerate.

Samsung C&T, one of the Samsung firms involved in the takeover, posted cartoons online that depicted Elliott's founder Paul Singer as a vulture-like figure. In one scene, Singer is depicted hiding an axe behind his back while taking money from a man in ragged clothes.

The cartoons were displayed for several weeks on a website set up by Samsung C&T to argue the merits of the takeover deal.

Samsung C&T said the cartoons were a sensitive issue and asked The Associated Press not to publish a story before a crucial shareholder meeting.

It later issued a statement saying offense was unintentional. "We categorically denounce anti-Semitism in all its forms, and we are committed to respect for all individuals," the statement said.

Jewish organizations last week called on Samsung and South Korea's government to denounce anti-Semitic stereotypes in local media.

A local business news website withdrew a column in which it called Elliott "Jewish money" and "ruthless and merciless."

The takeover will be put to a shareholder vote on Friday. Samsung needs support from at least two third of shareholders.

The vote is likely to be a close contest. Elliott, the third-largest shareholder in Samsung C&T, is not alone in criticizing the deal as unfair to minority shareholders. Pension funds in the Netherlands and Canada as well as thousands of minority shareholders in South Korea said they will oppose the takeover.

Samsung says the deal is crucial for the future of the two companies.

Meanwhile, South Korea's national pension fund, which is the largest shareholder in C&T, has reportedly decided to side with Samsung.