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Samsung Heir Pardoned, May Rejoin Board

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong has received a presidential pardon, giving him a free path to rejoin the company’s board.

Lee was paroled last August, after service 19 months in prison for bribery and embezzlement.

He was accused of paying $USD37.7 million to two non-profits in exchange for political favours. Lee was found by the court to have “actively provided bribes and implicitly asked the former president to use her power to help his smooth succession.”

Lee’s pardon, by President Yoon Suk Yeol, comes ahead of South Korea’s annual Liberation Day celebration next Monday, when such pardons are usually granted.

Samsung shares rose 1.3 per cent on the news.

“In a bid to overcome the economic crisis by vitalising the economy, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, whose suspended prison term was ended recently, will be reinstated,” the Korean government said in a statement.

Samsung has struggled with a leadership void since the 2020 death of Lee’s father, former CEO Lee Kun-hee (pictured below). This lack of clear leadership, coupled with the global semiconductor crunch, inflationary pressures, COVID issues, and the recent push by the US to turn itself into a chip production powerhouse, has been a major concern for Samsung’s shareholders of late.

Despite a five-year ban from working for Samsung, special interest group Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice claimed he has continued to run the company from the sidelines.

South Korean Justice Minister Park Beom-kye, insisted last year that Lee Jae-yong was not technically working at the tech giant.

“It is hard to say Lee is employed at this moment,” Park told reporters at the time of the complaints.

“Lee has not been paid for years, does not have a permanent position and is not a registered executive.

“A corporation that issues shares makes final decisions through its board of directors and shareholders’ meetings. Lee cannot take part in the board’s decision making since he’s not a registered executive.”

Now Lee is able to return to the board, and officially continue the succession plans in place before his bribery sentencing.

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