Samsung heir to be released from prison early

The South Korean conglomerate Samsung was involved in a major corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun Hye. The head of the company empire had to go to prison.

Seoul – Seven months after his new conviction for corruption, the heir to the Samsung corporate empire, Lee Jae Yong, may leave prison early.

The 53-year-old vice chairman of smartphone market leader Samsung Electronics will be released on parole along with more than 800 other prisoners to mark Liberation Day on Aug. 15, South Korea’s Justice Minister Park Beom Kye announced. They would be allowed to leave detention centers on Friday.

Lee’s prison sentence of two and a half years will thus be shortened by almost a year. However, as it is not a pardon, he will not be allowed to return to management immediately. He is subject to a five-year restriction on working for companies directly linked to crimes, according to media reports. However, there is speculation in South Korea that the Justice Ministry will grant an exception for the de facto Samsung Group chief sooner or later.

Country’s economic situation crucial

Park said the decision to grant Lee early parole was made in consideration of the country’s economic situation. In a July poll, a majority of respondents were in favor of parole. However, numerous civic organizations had opposed it.

The background to the case against Lee was the corruption scandal surrounding former President Park Geun Hye, who was removed from the highest state office in March 2017. That same year, Lee had already been sentenced to five years in prison for bribery, embezzlement and perjury. A year later, a court had reduced the sentence to probation, and Lee was set free again.

In a reopened trial, Lee was sentenced again in January of this year. Credit was given for time already served. The court considered it proven that he had offered money to the former president and one of her confidants to gain political support for the transfer of power within the group. Lee is the son of former group chief Lee Kun Hee, who died in October.

Two other cases underway

Two other proceedings are currently underway against Lee. He is facing charges of share price manipulation. He is also accused of illegally taking a tranquilizer. Lee denies the charges.

Korea’s Liberation Day from Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945) is August 15. Amnesties are traditionally granted on this holiday in South Korea. The country also has a long history of controversial pardons of convicted business leaders.