Samsung’s heir, like his father, was pardoned for crimes.
Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, also known as Jay Y. Lee in the West, has been granted a presidential pardon by South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, allowing the grandson of Samsung’s founder to resume leadership of the powerful company, according to Bloomberg. On August 15th, the pardon will be official.
The presidential pardon is similar to the two granted to Lee Kun-father, hee’s who was convicted of corruption and tax evasion in 1996 and 2008.
“Samsung Electronics vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong, whose suspended prison term just expired, will be restored in an attempt to overcome the economic crisis by rejuvenating the economy,” the South Korean government said in a statement cited by the Financial Times.
The pardon is the most recent development in a bribery controversy that began in 2017, when Lee was accused of bribing then-President Park Geun-hye. After being found guilty of corruption, the Samsung heir was sentenced to five years in prison, although he only served less than one year before being released on appeal. He was later re-incarcerated in January 2021 before being released on parole in August of that year. He completed a year and a half of his 30-month sentence.
A presidential pardon is significant because it allows Lee to retake the reins of the tech behemoth created by his grandfather, Lee Byung-Chul. Convicted offenders in Korea are forbidden from taking formal positions at companies such as Samsung for five years after their sentencing. According to Bloomberg, Lee has continued to receive updates from the company despite not having an official title.
Since Lee Kun-death hee’s in October 2020, Samsung is currently without a chairman. However, Bloomberg notes that the pardon allows Lee to return and push through major strategic decisions, which are arguably necessary as the chaebol struggles with inflation, the instability caused by the Ukraine war, supply chain issues caused by China’s Covid lockdowns, and complications resulting from escalating US-China relations.
Lee’s formal return to the corporation is viewed as a potential source of stability, as well as one that could be politically appealing. According to the Associated Press, approximately five million South Koreans own shares in Samsung, resulting in popular support for Lee’s release from prison. According to the Financial Times, opponents believe the pardon is symptomatic of a tight relationship between Korea’s commercial and political elite that borders on corruption.
“Thank you for providing me the chance to start over.” “I apologize for generating so much concern for so many people,” Lee stated in a statement. “I will work harder to contribute back to society and help it thrive.” However, the businessman’s legal problems are far from done, since he is still facing separate stock manipulation accusations in connection with the merger of two Samsung businesses.
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