According to Bloomberg, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has granted a presidential pardon to Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong, also known as Jay Y. Lee in the West, allowing the grandson of Samsung’s founder to once again manage the influential business. On August 15th, the pardon will be formally granted.
“In a bid to overcome the economic crisis by revitalizing the economy, Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-Yong, whose suspended prison term ended recently, will be reinstated.”
The pardon is the most recent development in a scandal involving bribery that began in 2017 when Lee was charged with bribing President Park Geun-Hye. After being found guilty of corruption, the Samsung heir was first given a five-year jail term; however, he only completed a little over a year of that time before being freed on appeal. He was then sent back to jail in January 2021 before being released on parole once more in August of the same year. He completed serving his 30-month term, totaling one and a half years.
Having lost Lee Kun-hee in October 2020, Samsung is now without a chairman. As the financial elite battles inflation, the instability brought on by the Ukraine conflict, supply chain issues resulting from China’s COVID lockdowns, and challenges brought on by escalating US-China relations, Bloomberg points out that the pardon opens the door for Lee to return and push through significant strategic decisions that are arguably necessary.
Lee’s official return to the corporation is viewed as a potential source of stability in addition to a possible source of political support. Around 5 million South Koreans own shares in Samsung, as the Associated Press reported last year, which has sparked strong support for Lee’s release from prison.