Samsung head embroiled in South Korea corruption case

Samsung is the world's largest consumer electronics company. Image cropped & courtesy of Flickr - Nan Palmero
Samsung has been embroiled in a wide-ranging corruption scandal in its home country South Korea. Image cropped & courtesy of Flickr - Nan Palmero

The Vice Chairman of Samsung has been accused of corruption in South Korea as part of an ongoing scandal involving the country's highest levels of leadership.

South Korean authorities are seeking the arrest of Lee Jae-Young, the Vice Chairman of Samsung Group as well as its current acting head on corruption charges.

Specifically, he stands accused of giving a bribe of 43bn won ($47m) to Choi Soon-Sil, a close friend of troubled President Park Geun-hye.

President Park herself has been impeached by parliament and will soon stand tried in the country’s Constitutional Court.

In an ongoing scandal, Choi Soon-Sil was found to have excessive influence over the president’s decisions which she used to further her own political interests.

Prosecutors allege that the money given to Mrs. Choi was intended to buy influence over government decisions, and allow a merger of two Samsung companies to go ahead.

Moreover, they allege that Lee embezzled the money from several Samsung companies in order to pay the claimed bribe money.

According to the New York Times, a local court will review the warrant for Mr. Lee and will make a decision of whether they approve it in several days.

A Chaebol country?

Should they go ahead, it would show that the country is willing to take action against its sprawling family-run conglomerates called ‘chaebol’ which make up a large fraction of its GDP.

In recent years the profits of Samsung Group alone amounted to at least 17% of the entire GDP of South Korea.

Lee’s father, the current Chairman of Samsung Group, had been previously convicted of tax evasion and breach of trust, however, the sentences were suspended and he later received presidential pardons.

Should Vice Chairman Lee be eventually convicted of corruption he too could escape charges through similar actions.

However within the current political climate, this will be significantly more difficult, and the government may feel like it needs to make an example of Lee.

Recent months have seen large-scale protests in South Korean capital Seoul against the sitting president as well as continuing high profile corruption within the country.