Samsung head likely to issue mandatory public apology this month

Samsung Vice Chairman and heir apparent, Lee Jae-yong, is expected to soon issue a public apology over company misconduct. The move was previously requested by an independent compliance committee ensuring Samsung is maintaining a required level of transparency in its corporate dealings. It also came with a deadline that Samsung promptly postponed to May 11th due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Sources close to the company now claim Samsung won’t ask for another delay, though details about the upcoming apology remain slim. The overall proceedings are reportedly accelerating due to the country’s impending need for economic revival. In other words, both Samsung and Korean authorities are eager to put this episode behind them.

Lee to continue as Samsung Vice Chairman

Lee has long been poised to take over as chairman of Samsung, being the eldest child and only son of Lee Jae-yong. The latter hasn’t been heard of since 2014, when he suffered a debilitating heart attack which is said to have left him in a comatose state. A strong philial tradition permeating both Samsung and South Korea means the succession won’t happen officially so long as the incapacitated chairman is alive.

Lee returned to lead Samsung in early 2018 after almost a year of incarceration on charges of embezzlement, bribery, and perjury. Despite a first-instance ruling sentencing him to five years in prison, his legal team slashed the term by half on appeal, allowing him to be released on four-year probation. The Korean Supreme Court overruled that decision in 2019, returning it to the Seoul High Court. The monitoring committee mandating Lee’s public apology has been formed in the meantime, and not cooperating with it by e.g. refusing to issue a public apology would likely land Lee back in prison.

The scandal prompting his 2017 arrest ultimately led to the downfall and incarceration of Korean President Park Geun-hye. In his role as a Samsung Chairman, Lee’s father has previously been found guilty of tax evasion and bribery as well but received pardons on both occasions.

Samsung remains tightlipped on the matter, with a company spokesman saying “Samsung is tackling the issue very prudently and thoroughly. We will make an announcement if we have to.”

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