20 years ago, the chairman of Samsung was indicted with the charges of bribing the president. Because of the nature of business back then and the influence that Samsung had on the South Korean economy, the influential executive was handed a suspended sentence. Some weeks later, the executive was pardoned by the president. After another 10 years, the same executive was brought before justice again. However, it was for different charges this time. The Samsung chairman had been accused of embezzlement charges and tax evasion. Again, due to his influence, he was handed a suspended sentence and pardoned by the president. From these two incidences, the people of Korea got one message that Samsung could not be touched because it was being run by one of the most powerful families in the country. However, this seems to have changed yesterday when a Korean court sent a different message. This came after the sentencing of Lee Jae-Yong for five years in prison. The former Samsung executive had been indicted with a number of charges with the notable one being bribery. This is the scandal that brought the former president down. It’s a case that has also shaken economic and political foundations of South Korea.
According to legal experts, this is the toughest sentence that a Korean business executive has received in modern times. This can be interpreted as a message that the country is not in the mood of entertaining business leaders by offering them political immunity. This is also interpreted as a move to weaken one of the most powerful families in the country. According to a KDI School of Public Policy and Management economist known as You Jong-il, Samsung has remained above the law in South Korea for some time. He says that this is a big step towards judicial justice that had been let down on a number of times by the relationship between courts and Samsung. On the other hand, the ruling is a test for Samsung, and it will determine whether the company can move forward without the founding family. However, the family can still run the business from behind the scenes. This has been the case for a number of business empires in Korea where senior executives or founding members have been jailed. For instance, if Lee goes to jail, professional managers will be reporting to him. At the same time, he will yield some power to even fire the chief executive officer.