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01 March 2017, 12:39 | Clarence Schmidt
The Samsung corruption scandal—an unrecognized cost
Samsung says it will shut down its top strategic office after the head of the group was formally charged with bribery and embezzlement.
The scandal has led exploding phone and washing machine maker Samsung to hit pause on some of its corporate operations.
Park, whose five-year single term ends in February 2018, was impeached by parliament on December 9, following massive street protests across the nation. Lee is the grandson of Samsung's founder and is technically a vice chairman, but he "has become the company's de facto leader since his father, Chairman Lee Kun-hee, fell ill", as The Two Way reported. Both he and Samsung have denied any wrongdoing.
Other charges against Lee include having provided - or pledged to provide - a total of 43 billion won ($37.5 million) to Choi's daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, in the form of sponsoring her equestrian career in Germany.
Vice-chairman Choi Gee Sung, indicted alongside Lee, and other executives at the strategy office are stepping down, with affiliates to be managed by their respective boards and CEOs. The 48-year-old billionaire was arrested February 17. Further, Samsung's lack of announcements at the recently held World Mobile Congress is giving its competitors even more room to take a shot at the gap left behind by Samsung's missteps.
Park's impeachment was triggered by accusations that she colluded with Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the centre of the scandal, to pressure big businesses, including Samsung, to donate to two foundations set up to back the president's policy initiatives. Choi is said to have used her closeness to the president to make millions of dollars from South Korean giants like LG, Samsung and Hyundai. Mr.
"We apologise for the social controversy and distress we have caused", Samsung Group executive vice president Lee June told reporters.
Samsung already announced its intention to disband the Corporate Strategy Office, the decision-making unit at the company, which has been linked to the corruption investigation.
If her impeachment is upheld, Park would immediately lose her immunity to criminal indictment and South Koreans would have to elect a new president within 60 days.
Lee Jae-yong, known as Jay Y Lee, the 48-year-old head of Samsung Group, will be charged later today with bribery, embezzlement, perjury and concealing the proceeds of crime. Samsung officials will also face charges. However, major business groups criticised the arrest, concerned about the impact on Samsung and, more broadly, on South Korea. He was later convicted and then pardoned by a former president.
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