Samsung Electronics boss Lee Jae-yong will be released from prison on parole this Friday.
Lee was sent down for 30 months in January 2021 on charges of bribery, concealment of criminal proceeds, and embezzlement. He’s also facing accusations of drug abuse and has previously done time for corruption.
South Korean authorities are letting him out because the nation feels Samsung needs his leadership.
A statement from South Korea’s Ministry of Justice says consideration of local and global economic conditions contributed to the decision to release Lee. The statement also cites public sentiment about Lee and his good behaviour while inside.
Left unsaid is that there are few aspects of South Korean life that Samsung does not touch. The giant company’s many subsidiaries account for over 10 per cent of the collective market capitalisation of South Korea’s stock exchange and a similar share of the nation’s exports.
South Korea has also recently put Samsung at the centre of new industry development initiatives that are hoped to create new jobs and exports in semiconductors , 5G, and even a national virtual reality platform.
Lee’s leadership is clearly seen as important in pursuit of those goals. Local media says Lee going free will accelerate investment decisions on matters including new investments in semiconductor fabrication plants.
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Lee will leave prison on Friday, August 13 , a holiday to mark South Korea’s liberation from Japan in 1945. He’ll be one of 810 people released on the day, an unusually high number as South Korea feels the combination of COVID-19 and crowded jails justifies an increase over last year’s 659 releases.
The Samsung supremo still faces many troubles, among them the drugs charge mentioned above and the fact that his conviction means he can’t be employed for five years. Exceptions to that policy can be granted, but reports suggest Lee has not applied for one at the time of writing. ®