The de facto head of Samsung and vice president of Samsung Electronics, Lee Jae-yong, should return to managing the company, despite the five-year work ban issued against him, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said in an interview with the Financial Times.
In January, Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for paying a bribe of about 8.7 billion won (about $ 7.5 million) to former President Park Geun-hye. The head of Samsung was released early on August 13 under an amnesty; he is obliged to comply with the rules of parole and request permission for any trips abroad. Since February, he has also been subject to a five-year work restriction, which is imposed on persons convicted of economic crimes with an amount of more than 500 million won (about $430 thousand).
“We should follow legal procedures if they are necessary for his return to management, but banning him from acting is not an appropriate option when he has already been released from prison,” Kim Boo-kyum said, noting that Lee Jae-yong’s participation in the company’s activities is necessary for the context of increased global competition and economic problems caused by the global pandemic.
According to the prime minister, part of South Korean society believes that “it is unfair to deprive Lee Jae-yong of business opportunities.” Kim Boo-kyum warned against a “limited” approach to the situation with Lee Jae-yong. However, he admitted that another part of society criticizes the premature release of his legal responsibility.
Some South Korean companies have even called on the government to ease the conditions for the early release of the head of Samsung, including restrictions on foreign travel.
As previously reported by the Korea Herald, the return of Lee Jae-yong to the management of the conglomerate after his early release caused dissatisfaction with part of society and activist groups who believe that this violates the five-year employment ban imposed on the head of Samsung.
At the same time, South Korean Justice Minister Park Beom-kye said that Lee Jae-yong has not received a salary for many years and is not a registered executive director, which theoretically makes him unemployed. Activists of the Civil Coalition for Economic Justice responded that the restriction on employment should protect companies by prohibiting criminals from exercising their powers. It is absurd that Lee Jae-yong does not violate the law just because he is not registered or does not receive money.