Lee Jae-yong, chairman of Samsung Electronics (courtesy of Samsung)
Lee Jae-yong was promoted to executive chairman of Samsung Electronics on Thursday. His promotion comes 31 years after he joined the company, and 10 years since he ascended to the role of vice chairman.
Critics have pointed out that this appointment “does not adhere to corporate social responsibility” since Lee is not a board director (a registered director who takes legal responsibility for management) and characterized it as “inappropriate,” as Lee is currently on trial for accounting fraud at Samsung Biologics.
Samsung’s board of directors approved the appointment of Lee on Thursday morning. The board explained their decision by talking about the need for “responsible management, stronger accountability and business stability, as well as in order to make timely decisions.” Lee’s promotion process ended with a board resolution and did not include an inauguration ceremony or speech.
Lee met with reporters while appearing in court at the Seoul Central District Court and stated that he would “create a company that will gain even the smallest of trust and love from people.”
“I ask for your support,” the Samsung heir said.
Samsung Electronics posted Lee’s remarks at the meeting of Samsung Group presidents after the memorial service for the late Samsung chairman, Lee Kun-hee — Lee Jae-yong’s father — on Tuesday on its in-house bulletin board.
In a post titled “Challenging for the Future,” the younger Lee proclaimed that “inheriting and developing the achievements and the legacy of my predecessor is my calling.”
“Let’s make a truly top-tier company that bypasses what Samsung is today and create a company loved by every Korean and all people of the world. I will stand at the forefront.”
However, he did not disclose whether he would serve as registered director of Samsung Electronics, or how he would implement his vision for the “new Samsung” he spoke of on the sidelines of his trial over involvement in a massive government influence-peddling scandal.
The Solidarity for Economic Reform criticized the appointment by pointing out that “this only goes to show that there’s one law for the rich and one for the poor.”
“It goes against all reason that, despite having caused enormous damage to Samsung Electronics by his involvement in illegal acts, Lee Jae-yong can become chairman,” the group stated.
The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy pointed out, “If Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong becomes chairman, as an unregistered director, he will be able to exercise authority while shouldering no legal responsibilities — a far cry from Samsung’s claim that it will bear corporate social responsibility.”
Lee Jae-yong is currently appearing in court every week. If convicted of occupational breach of trust, employment restriction measures that were lifted when Lee was pardoned by President Yoon Suk-yeol on National Liberation Day in August could be reinstated.
Kim Woo-chan, a professor of business administration at Korea University, commented, “Appointing a person who has clear trial risks as the chairman of the largest company in Korea is very inappropriate.”
By Lee Jeong-hun, staff reporter; Choi Min-young, staff reporter
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