Business leaders want Lee Jae-yong out of prison for South Korea’s future

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South Korea’s most prominent business investors are reportedly lobbying for the release of Samsung’s imprisoned de facto leader Lee Jae-yong. The country’s major business lobby groups have reportedly sent a letter to Cheong Wa Dae — a.k.a. the Blue House / official presidential residence — in which they’re petitioning for Lee Jae-yong’s pardon.

Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison on account of his bribery case earlier in January, and he was banned from working at Samsung for 5 years once the sentence is executed. However, an increasing number of prominent voices are now concerned that Lee Jae-yong’s imprisonment could have disastrous consequences for South Korea’s economy, and South Korea’s major business lobby groups agree.

According to The Korea Times, the five major lobby groups that have reportedly petitioned for Lee Jae-yong’s release earlier today are:

  • Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Korea Enterprises Federation
  • Korea Federation of SMEs
  • Korea International Trade Association
  • Federation of Middle Market Enterprises of Korea

South Korea needs Samsung’s leadership amid the semiconductor shortage

Although Lee Jae-yong’s lawyers told the public in January that Samsung’s de facto leader has humbly accepted the court’s decision to serve 2.5 years in prison, industry watchers, business leaders, and even religious figures have all been vocal about the consequences of Lee’s imprisonment during the ongoing global semiconductor shortage.

They believe that Samsung — South Korea’s largest business and one of the world’s key semiconductor companies — is in dire need of strong leadership if it wants to maintain relevancy in the semiconductor space. In their eyes, Lee Jae-yong’s imprisonment could have disastrously long-term consequences for South Korea’s economy.

To understand why, Emeritus Professor of Seoul National University Kim Hyung-jun drew a parallel between Japan’s semiconductor history in the ’80s and the current situation in a recent interview with The Elec. He argued that Japan lost the leading position in the semiconductor space a few decades ago precisely because Japan’s semiconductor industry didn’t have clear leadership, and instead it was spearheaded by groups of investors.

As per the recent petition for pardoning Lee Jae-yong, South Korea’s business leaders believe that any delay in investment and business decisions — especially now during the global semiconductor shortage — could lead to South Korea losing the No. 1 status in a day.

A couple of years ago, Samsung Electronics laid down a plan to become the industry’s largest semiconductor player by 2030, though it’s evident that some industry watchers believe that Samsung and / or South Korea’s semiconductor arm won’t survive until then if Lee Jae-yong remains imprisoned.

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