The only heir of the leading South Korean conglomerate group, Samsung Group (Samsung), Jay Y. Lee confessed and made an apology on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, over controversial succession plans of the corporate group. Lee also made a promise that he would not hand over management rights to his children at the family-controlled conglomerate.
Lee Made His Rare Confession
On Wednesday, Lee made his public statement in five years and told a press conference at the company’s Seoul office, “We failed, at times, to meet society’s expectations. We even disappointed people and caused concern because we did not strictly uphold the law and ethical standards.” He also apologized for the manners the executives of the company had dealt with labor union activities in the past and vowed to guarantee labor rights in the workplace.
Lee had already served one year in detention but was released in 2018 after the appellate court reduced a lower court’s verdict of five-year jail sentence to three years. The Supreme Court in August 2018 overturned an appeals court ruling on the bribery case, calling for a tougher sentence and potential return to jail for the chief of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate.
Sources reported that those remarks Lee made on Wednesday were the result of the Samsung advisors panel’s counseling to him in March; thereby, he confessed and apologized over the issues of succession plans of the company, labor union issues, and lastly promised to avoid any further violation of government rules.
Promise over Succession Plan
In January, Samsung established a compliance committee after a judge, who was examining Lee’s bribery case, had criticized the group for the lack of an effective system to prevent executives’ misdeeds. For a series of cases, some of Samsung’s former and current executives were investigated or convicted in other cases including the then-board chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, Lee Sang-hoon, who was jailed in December for sabotaging labor union activities. Subsequently, he has since resigned and lodged an appeal.
Meanwhile, the inquiry committee, headed by a former Supreme Court judge, has faced criticism from governance experts who called it a mere gesture for granting leniency in court. Kim Woo-chan, a professor of finance at Korea University Business School, stated, “Both apology and promise are vague. He did not specifically address what he has done wrong.”
Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and de facto head of the conglomerate, had described that many of the controversies surrounding him and Samsung were revolved around the issues of the company’s succession. To clarify the matter, Lee asserted, “I give my word here today that from now on, there will be no more controversy regarding succession,” adding that “I do not plan to pass down my role to my children. This is something I have thought about for a long time but have been hesitant to express it openly.”
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