Business

Is the Korean president about to let the Samsung heir out of jail?

Samsung vice chairman and heir to the conglomerate Lee Jae-yong is serving out a 2.5 year sentence in jail. He decided against appealing the sentence. So unless he’s given some relief by the country’s president, he’ll remain in prison.

There are growing calls in South Korea for Lee Jae-yong to be pardoned. From business leaders to US companies and even Buddhist monks. All have called on President Moon Jae-in to grant the pardon. A crucial meeting between the president and top business executives in South Korea is scheduled for tomorrow. Many expect that the president might say something about the matter there.

Freedom may be on the horizon for the Samsung heir

President Moon Jae-in has previously said that he remains open to the possibility of granting a pardon to Lee Jae-yong. He’s set to meet leaders of South Korea’s top four conglomerates over a luncheon tomorrow. Observers will be watching the meeting closely for any hints that the president may drop on pardoning or paroling the imprisoned Samsung heir.

This will be the first meeting of its kind in Moon’s final year in office. Participants include Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Kim Ki-nam, Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisung, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won.

Observers have high expectations for a “special measure” that might see Lee Jae-yong’s prison stay cut short. These four business groups contributed to a highly successful summit between President Moon Jae-in and US counterpart President Joe Biden by pledging to invest billions of dollars in the EV battery, semiconductor and automobile sectors in America. The four conglomerates have pledged a combined $39.45 billion in investments for the US.

“Under the circumstance, there’s a fair chance that the release of Lee, in the form of either a pardon or on parole, will be brought up during the luncheon,” says Shin Yul, a professor of political science at Myongji University.

Political observers in South Korea feel that the president will have to balance the political risk of providing a pardon or parole to the Samsung heir. While parole will set him free, it will not allow Lee to resume work. A pardon will enable him to get back to work immediately which is what Lee and Samsung likely want.

All eyes are now on the luncheon tomorrow and whether the topic of Lee’s freedom will be brought up by any of the participants.

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