South Korean court gives Samsung heir prison term over bribery

Lee Jae-yong, the billionaire Samsung heir has been sentenced to two and a half years and ordered to go back to prison by a court in South Korea.

Corruption Scandal

This sentencing follows his involvement in a corruption scandal in 2016 that led to the impeachment of the then South Korean president and sparked massive street protests.


The Seoul high court decided that Lee was guilty of bribing Park Guen-hye, who was South Korean president then, and her close associate to win government support for a merger between two Samsung affiliates. Lee’s lawyers tried to fight the charge by portraying him as a victim of the abuse of presidential power, describing the 2015 deal as part of “normal business activity.”


The head of Lee Jae-yong’s defense team, Injae Lee, lamented the court’s decision in the retrial, stating that the “essence of the case is that a former president abused power to infringe upon the freedom and property rights of a private company.”

Implications for Samsung

Injae Lee did not reveal whether they would be appealing the decision or not. Samsung is yet to put out an official statement over the ruling.


Lee Jae-yong serves as Samsung Electronics” vice chairman. The company is one of the world’s biggest producers of smartphones and computer chips.


As yet, it’s unclear to what degree this indictment is likely to impact Samsung. The last year was typically successful for Samsung, who is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the prolonged trade war between the US and China and the coronavirus pandemic. Samsung’s status as a manufacturer of both parts and finished products also places it in a position of strength.


Further, sanctions imposed on China owned Huawei Technologies have severely hampered one of Samsung’s biggest competitors in smartphones, telecommunication equipment and smartphone chips. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has revealed that there are no plans to pardon Park.