Samsung moves to soothe employee worries about heir's imprisonment

Laverne Mann
August 29, 2017

Lotte chairman Shin Dong-bin was indicted on bribery charges in April, while Samsung's Lee was sentenced to five years prison.

Korean KoonAng Daily - a company known for close ties with the Samsung Group - stated, "Samsung lawyers will have a good case for an appeal", and that "No companies can resist such blunt demands from a president who has the final say in economic policy".

But Lee, vice-chairman at Samsung Electronics and the Samsung founder's grandson, had said he was unaware of the donations, which were overseen by other executives. Lee Kun-hee, the current chairman of Samsung Electronics, slipped into a coma three years ago.

Friday's lower court ruling has several aspects that open the way for an appeal, the criminal lawyers told Reuters.

When millions of people took to the streets to demand president Park Geun-hye's ouster over a burgeoning corruption scandal, their anger was directed nearly as much at the companies that paid her secret confidante Choi Soon Sil, as at her.

Wi also raised objections to Lee's monthly wage of 159 million won, saying he saw no reason why Lee should receive a higher salary than Samsung Electronics CEO Kwon Oh-hyun, who took 156 million won per month, in the first half of this year.

The sentencing is the latest episode in a scandal that saw millions of South Koreans protest last autumn, leading Park to be ousted.

Payments were said to include $6.4m in supporting the equestrian career of Choi's daughter.

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The ruling in Lee's case can be appealed twice. Lee has two sisters, but neither has been heavily involved in Samsung Electronics, which is widely regarded as the center of the Samsung empire.

There has not been a major tumble among Samsung affiliates since the imprisonment of Lee. Given this, many have observed that it won't be hard to find that there were strings attached to the money.

Samsung is one of Korea's family-controlled conglomerates called chaebol.

"Cronies inside Samsung will start taking sides, and this is a risky situation you can't control from a jail cell", he said.

Within South Korea, public anger has risen over the dominance, power and lawlessness of the chaebols. Among those 10 giants, the leaders of six have been convicted of white-collar crimes, with many being pardoned or having had their sentences commuted.

Out of 43.3 billion won - the total amount of the money which the special counsel viewed as paid or promised by Samsung Group - the court acknowledged only 8.92 billion won as a bribe.

Even so, it is not clear whether the victory will galvanize broader anti-graft efforts. "The leadership vacuum may not have short-term effect, but in the long-term, it is a serious problem".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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