Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong has been granted a presidential pardon. The pardon is effective Monday, August 15, South Korea’s National Liberation Day anniversary. Lee can then formally take control of the electronics conglomerate.
For the uninitiated, the de-facto Samsung leader has been serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in a 2017 bribery case involving then South Korea president Park Geun-hye. He spent 18 months in prison before walking out on parole in August last year. As per the parole conditions, Lee couldn’t travel out of the country freely even for business meetings. He needed to obtain permission for the same.
Lee also couldn’t take up any formal role at the company. He could only receive reports from other Samsung executives. This affected the company’s decision-making. More so when he was in prison where executives reportedly could meet him for only ten minutes.
Calls for Lee’s presidential pardon have been coming since early last year as the tech world faced an unprecedented semiconductor shortage in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Since Samsung is one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies, it needed to play a vital role in overcoming the global shortage. Unfortunately, Lee’s absence in the office prevented the Korean behemoth from moving forward at an ideal pace.
Major South Korean business lobby groups, religious groups, individuals, and some American companies all asked for Lee’s presidential pardon as parole didn’t allow him to work freely. Months after those calls, newly elected South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol freed the Samsung heir. Following the presidential pardon earlier today, Lee apologized to the South Korean public. He pledged to “start anew,” Bloomberg reports. “I will try harder to give back to society and grow together,” he added.
Lee is returning to lead Samsung amid a global economic crisis
Samsung is one of the most significant contributors to South Korea’s economy. But factors like the Russia-Ukraine war, logistic disruptions in China due to pandemic lockdowns, rising political tensions between the US and China, and a global slowdown in consumer spending on electronics have affected the company’s business lately. And its troubles indirectly affect the country’s economy as well. Time will tell whether Lee’s return to Samsung’s office helps bolster the company’s growth and stabilize the Korean economy.
“In a bid to overcome the economic crisis by vitalizing the economy, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, whose suspended prison term was ended recently, will be reinstated,” the Korean government said in an official statement.