Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, who was convicted of bribery and embezzlement, was released on parole on Friday.
The business community and the public were strongly advocating for his parole. They were anxious that major strategic decisions were not being made at the world’s biggest memory chip and smartphone manufacturer. However, civic groups have condemned his release as another sign of leniency for the country’s business elite.
The 53-year-old served 18 months of a revised 30-month sentence. Jay Y. Lee was convicted of bribing a friend of former President Park Geun-Hye. Lee talked to the reporters and apologized.
After his release, he went straight to the Samsung headquarters. President Moon Jae-in’s office said in a statement on Friday that the decision to parole Lee was made in the national interest. He added that the views of the people who oppose parole are also right.
Lee Kyungmook, a professor at Seoul National University Graduate School of Business, said that his release is expected to speed up the decision-making. It comes with Lee’s job such as M&A and group restructuring. Samsung has refused to comment on when Lee will resume work.
Lee must gain separate justice ministry approval before he can resume work. Though the decision is expected to be a formality.
However, on Thursday, Samsung announced that it had signed its first agreements with four company labor unions. These agreements cover the provisions of offices and assurances that union activities will be allowed.
Lee was also on trial accused of accounting fraud. And stock price manipulation connected to a 2015 merger of two Samsung companies.
The first hearing of a separate case could be held on September 7. Lee allegedly and unlawfully used a sedative. However, he has denied the accusations in both cases.