Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong finally broke his silence, three days after he was sent back to prison on Monday for bribing former President Park Geun-hye.
In a message sent via his attorneys on Thursday, the Samsung Electronics vice chairman reaffirmed the importance of his ongoing drive to establish a law-abiding culture at the conglomerate.
“While reaffirming my continued support for Samsung’s legal compliance monitoring committee, I implore its chairman and its members to carry on with their duties,” he said.
The message from jail came on the same day the anti-corruption committee was scheduled to convene for a regular meeting.
On Monday, the Seoul High Court gave the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics a 2 1/2-year prison term for bribing Park and her longtime associate Choi Seo-won, then known as Choi Soon-sil, to win government support for a smooth transfer of managerial power to Lee from his late father, Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee.
Since the junior Lee had already served one year in prison prior to the verdict, his absence from the helm of Samsung will last a year and a half at most.
The compliance committee that Lee mentioned is an independent body headed by a former Supreme Court justice tasked with preventing Samsung from succumbing to undue political pressure and engaging in shady deals.
It was formed in February last year at the order of Judge Jung Joon-young, who presided over Lee’s recent retrial, to help Samsung come up with a group-level compliance system.
On Jan. 11, a week before the final verdict, Lee met members of the committee in person and pledged to ensure the committee’s independence and its continued activities.
Samsung officials had hoped the committee’s activities would be taken into consideration at the trial and result in leniency for Lee.
But upon sending Lee back to jail, the judges said it was difficult to say the committee had met the standards in terms of effectiveness, casting doubt over its ability to prevent future breaches of the law.
Lee In-je, an attorney for Lee, expressed disappointment with the ruling, pointing the finger at former President Park and saying his client was innocent.
“The essence of the case is an abuse of power by the former president, which hurt a corporation’s freedom and property rights. Considering this, the ruling is regrettable,” said Lee.
The attorney said he would consider appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court after reviewing it.
Meanwhile, a fake letter purportedly from Lee circulated on social media Thursday announcing plans to move Samsung’s headquarters out of South Korea. But Samsung Group denied it was authentic: There was no message from Lee, the group said, other than the ones delivered through his attorneys.
By Kim Byung-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org