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South Korea's president explains Samsung leader Jay Y. Lee

South Koreas president explains Samsung leader Jay Y. Lee

August 13, 2022: -On Friday, South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol explained Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee. South Korea’s Justice Ministry said the business leader was required to help overcome a “national economic crisis.”

The pardon is mainly symbolic, with Lee already out on parole following serving 18 months in jail for bribery related to his time leading the world’s biggest smartphone and memory chip maker.

Regardless, analysts said Lee could carry out business activities more freely and herald some major moves from Samsung.

“With is urgent to overcome the national economic crisis, we carefully selected economic leaders leading the national development engine through active technology investment and job creation to be pardoned,” Justice Minister Han Dong Hoon told a briefing.

Lee, a scion founding family of Samsung, welcomed the decision and vowed to work hard for the national economy, Yonhap news agency said.

Also pardoned by pro-business President Yoon was Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin, sentencing to a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence on bribery charges.

“We sincerely thank the governments and decision to grant the pardon of the sentence, and Chairman Shin Dong-bin and staff members at Lotte will contribute to overwhelming the difficult global crisis,” Lotte said in a statement.

Even before accepting the presidential amnesty, Lee had returned to the limelight, appearing in May with President Yoon and U.S. President Joe Biden when they called Samsung’s Pyeongtaek chip production facilities.

He also visited Europe in June to meet ASML CEO Peter Wennink, discussing the adoption of essential high-end chip equipment. Read full story

Analysts have long expected decisions on major M&A projects and investments once Lee was reinstated, with company sources saying such decisions should only be made by Lee.

“This removes the employment restriction Lee was technically under,” said Park Ju-gun, head of research company Leaders Index.

“And projects that Samsung was seeking, such as major M&A or investments, these could be tied to the pardon. There’s a high chance that announcements will be made in the future.”

Last November, Samsung settled on Taylor, Texas, as the site of a new $17 billion chip plant.

While experts say Lee could now more freely participate in management, his legal risks persist because of an ongoing trial where he faces charges of fraud and stock manipulation.

“With his trial, Lee could face a new jail term if convicted. However, the presidential pardon gives him some flexibility to handle big management issues for now,” said Lee Kyungmook, a professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Business.

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