Samsung leader Jay Y. Lee released from jail on parole

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, convicted of bribery and embezzlement, was released on parole on Friday, with hopes high at the tech giant that he will soon be allowed to work as big investment decisions await him.

Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Y. Lee speaks as he is released on parole from Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, South Korea, August 13, 2021. /Reuters via CGTN

Lee, 53, appeared outside the Seoul Detention Center, wearing a dark grey suit and looking thinner than when he was last detained in January.

"I've caused much concern for the people. I deeply apologize," Lee told reporters. "I am listening to the concerns, criticisms, worries and high expectations for me. I will work hard."

Support for his parole, both political, public and from the wider business community, had grown amid anxiety that key strategic decisions are not being made at the South Korean conglomerate.

Convicted of bribing a friend of former President Park Geun-hye, Lee has served 18 months of a revised 30-month sentence. He initially served one year of a five-year sentence from August 2017 which was later suspended. That court decision was then overturned and while the sentence was shortened, he was sent back to jail in January this year.

He will still need to gain permission from South Korea's justice ministry to resume work, but that is expected to be a formality.

Although the day-to-day running of the world's biggest memory chipmaker and smartphone manufacturer has not been affected by his absence, company sources say decisions on major investment and M&A projects should only be made by Lee.

In particular, a decision on the location of a $17 billion U.S. plant to produce advanced logic chips awaits his return at a time when there is a global chip shortage and rivals like TSMC and Intel are making large investments.

In a symbolic move, Samsung Electronics on Thursday made good on a promise by Lee by announcing it had signed its first agreements with four company labor unions that cover the provisions of offices and assurances that union activities will be allowed.

Lee vowed in May 2020 to improve labor rights at the tech giant. A raft of Samsung employees have been found guilty of sabotaging labor union activities.

Source(s): Reuters