Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong of Korea’s top business conglomerate, Samsung, was released on parole on August 13 on the occasion of the Liberation Day of Korea on August 15 after his internment for two years and six months on charges of involvement in “Kukjeong Nongdan” (which translates “abuse of authority, unauthorized use of state power, coercion, fraud, monopoly,” etc.).
President Moon Jae-in said, “We know that there are different opinions on the release of Mr. Lee but we thought that it is appropriate to share the view that Mr. Lee’s contribution to the healthy economy of Korea is very important.”
Former President Madam Park Geun-hye is in prison on similar charges. Many people are wondering what would happen in case of the government’s change in the future, and hope that the unfortunate happening would stop.
Vice Chairman Lee is known to have fairly well managed himself during his 30-month internment in prison running the prion ground only with his vest on to keep himself fit. According to his prison inmates, Lee is known to have kept his exercise to keep himself fit.
According to a recent report by Arirang News, Lee is still subject to several restrictions
Lee will need to comply with certain rules under the supervision of local authorities.
For example, if Lee plans to change his residence or travel for more than a month, he is required to report it to the competent authorities.
Lee is also known to be prohibited from managing his company for the time being as he is subject to a five-year employment restriction.
The law restricts his employment from the time his jail term ends, meaning he will not be able to return to his office until the second half of 2027--unless he is given a special exemption decision.
In January, Lee got a two-and-a-half-year sentence in prison for involvement in a bribery case. Lee was convicted of bribing the then-President Madam Park Geun-hye to help his succession as the head of Samsung Group.
The release of Vice Chairman Lee is also expected to be conducive to the improvement of relations between Korea and the United States. With his term of office ending in next March, President Moon is seen to be working hard to improve Korea’s relations with the U.S. and Japan, which had been somewhat ‘not as strong as before’ compared with the times of his predecessors, former Presidents Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak.
According to a Financial Times report earlier on May 20, 2021, U.S. companies have urged President Moon to release Vice Chairman Lee from prison, arguing that the billionaire executive could boost U.S. President Joe Biden’s efforts to shake off American dependence on computer chips produced in foreign countries.
Samsung is weighing multibillion-dollar investments in semiconductor facilities in the U.S., with the Seoul-based group considering sites in Austin, where it already has one chip-making factory, as well as Phoenix and New York.
In the wake of the economic disruption wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. government and businesses are desperately trying to localize supply chains for crucial technologies, including semiconductors.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, according to the Financial Times report, warned President Moon that South Korea’s status as a strategic partner to the U.S. was at risk if Samsung, the world’s biggest chipmaker, was not more fully engaged in supporting Biden’s efforts, according to a letter seen by the Financial Times.