Korean media last week reported that several local business officials are seeking a presidential pardon for Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong so he could facilitate the company’s investments amid a global semiconductor chip shortage. Now, a newer report claims that at least five major South Korean business lobby groups have officially submitted a petition for Lee’s pardon.
According to The Korea Times, the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Korea Enterprises Federation, Korea Federation of SMEs, Korea International Trade Association, and the Federation of Middle Market Enterprises of Korea have jointly sent a letter to Cheong Wa Dae, aka the Blue House – the official residence of the South Korean president – seeking Lee’s release from the jail.
Samsung Vice Chairman and de facto leader Lee has been in jail since January this year. He is serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in the infamous 2017 bribery case involving then South Korea president Park Geun-hye. Lee had already served some time in prison before. He will walk out free in July 2022, unless he gets a presidential pardon or commutation for early release.
Korean businesses seek a presidential pardon for Samsung heir
The absence of Vice Chairman Lee is hurting Samsung’s decision-making, delaying its investment plans. This delay could have disastrous consequences for South Korea’s economy. More so at a time when the tech industry is facing an unprecedented semiconductor chip shortage globally.
TSMC and Intel, Samsung’s main rivals in the chip industry, have already announced investment plans to expand their production capacity. The Korean firm, meanwhile, has yet to decide where it will build its new chip plant in the US. South Korea’s major business lobby groups fear that the country could lose its grip in the semiconductor sector if Lee stays behind the bars any longer.
“Our semiconductor industry is facing new risks and a challenging situation, and if we see a delay in investment and business decisions because of a leader’s absence who needs to oversee the company’s management amid a fierce competition of the chip industry, the country may lose the No. 1 status in a day,” they said in a joint letter.
Samsung is the world’s largest memory chip producer. It is also the second-biggest player in the foundry sector, behind Taiwan’s TSMC. The company is looking to invest $17 billion to build a new chip manufacturing plant in the US. It is seeing sites in Texas, Arizona, and New York. However, the Korean giant is still pending a decision on that.
Apart from the aforementioned five business groups, officials from other sectors have also requested Lee’s pardon. The Korea Senior Citizens Association and the Jogye Order, South Korea’s largest Buddhist sector, have reportedly sent similar letters to Cheong Wa Dae. It now remains to be seen whether Lee gets a presidential pardon and walks out from jail early.