Lee left the prison wearing a gray suit and a mask, near Seoul to a wall of camera flashes and bowed in apology over the anger erupted by his case, which was related to the explosive corruption scandal that toppled South Korea’s previous president, Park Geun-hye in 2017.
Hundreds of radicals standing behind cop lines simultaneously shouted slogans and welcoming his release. Lee Jae-yong said, “(I) caused too much concern to our people. I am very sorry,” who had spent the past months in prison relaying his business decisions through visiting employees. He said he was keeping close attention to a the concerns, criticism and huge expectations about him and then walked into a black sedan without answering reporters’ questions.
The 53 year old is the third-generation heir of the giant business empire Samsung that runs everything from technology, construction, and financial services companies even hospitals, an amusement park and baseball & soccer clubs. Samsung Electronics that single handedly represents about 20 percent of South Korea’s entire share market value and one-fourth of its total exports.
Lee’s paroled had marked an about-face for the government of President Moon Jae-in, who after being elected in 2017 pledged to restraint the excesses of “chaebol,” or South Korea’s family-owned conglomerates, and end their close bonds with the government. Park Soo-hyun, president Moon’s spokesperson, said in a statement that Lee’s release had benefited “national interest” and entreated for people’s understanding.
Releasing Lee became politically easy for president Moon after recent polls indicated South Korea’s public that years had removed from the angry demonstration that filled the streets with millions of radicals in 2016 and 2017 that had largely favored Lee’s release.
According to some experts who stated that with the next presidential election coming in March 2022, the ruling liberals are hoping to win votes among the millions of South Koreans who own Samsung shares. The company had no immediate comment to Lee’s release.
Pardoned Lee had served a total of 18 months out of a 30-month sentence for looting millions of dollars from corporate funds to bribe then South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye. Lee leads the conglomerate as vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, which is giant global distributor of computer memory chips and smartphones.