Leaders of South Korea’s major corporations urged President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday to pardon Jay Y. Lee, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s jailed vice chairman, in order to keep the country’s chip-making edge.
Moon made the request during a luncheon with the CEOs of four major business conglomerates – Samsung, Hyundai, LG, and SK – to promote economic cooperation after Moon and US Vice President Joe Biden agreed to strengthen the global supply chain for high-tech manufacturing.
During Moon’s visit to Washington, Biden advocated for more South Korean investment, and Samsung confirmed a proposal to invest $17 billion in a new semiconductor contract manufacturing factory in the United States.
According to Park Jea-gun, a professor at Hanyang University in Seoul, Lee is in a unique position supervising all three of Samsung’s divisions: chips, cellphones, and home appliances.
“If you’re not the owner, it’s difficult to make huge business decisions,” Park added.
However, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, an activist group opposed to chaebol chiefs being pardoned, issued a statement stating Lee’s release will “exploit the legal system to legitimize corporate crimes.”