Samsung tycoon Lee Jae-yong received a presidential pardon so that he would be reinstated in time for the Aug. 15 Independence Day. Photo courtesy of Samsung Electronics

South Korea’s richest businessman will be reinstated

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, the de facto chief of the country’s largest conglomerate Samsung Group, gained a presidential pardon on Aug. 12.

Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon said that the Samsung tycoon would be reinstated in time for the Aug. 15 Independence Day to give him an opportunity to help the country overcome the economic downturn.

After being convicted of bribing former President Park Geun-hye to strengthen his grip on Samsung, Lee served 18 months in jail. He was released on parole midway through last year.

The 54-year-old is the richest businessman in South Korea after the death of his father, former Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, in late 2020. His wealth is estimated at $8 billion.

Thanks to the measure, Lee is expected to fully return to work without having to worry about controversies about the five-year post-prison employment restriction.

“I really appreciate as I am given a chance to start anew,” Lee said in a statement. “I will put forth great efforts to fulfill my responsibility as a businessman.”

Along with Lee, three other businessmen gained a special pardon, including Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin, Dongkuk Steel Chairman Jang Se-joo, and former STX Group Chairman Kang Deok-soo.

Chairman Shin was also imprisoned for a bribery scandal involving former President Park. Lotte is one of the country’s largest conglomerates.

“Chairman Shin and we will contribute to the country’s attempt to grapple with the complicated global crisis,” Lotte said in a statement.

Politicians were excluded from the presidential pardons. Former President Lee Myung-bak and former South Gyeongsang Province Kim Kyung-soo are currently behind bars.

“Samsung has not been carried out large-sized M&As. As its head was reinstated, the group may start its attempts to acquire major companies for its future cash cows,” Seoul-based business tracker Leaders Index CEO Park Ju-gun said.

“Lotte is also expected to make big investments for its next-generation growth engines like batteries or biochemical products.”

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at or 82-2-6956-6698.