7 Samsung executives sentenced to prison for union-busting operations

Posted on : 2019-12-18 17:50 KST Modified on : 2019-12-18 17:50 KST
People involved considered close associates of Lee Jae-yong
Samsung Electronics’ Seoul headquarters
Samsung Electronics’ Seoul headquarters

Lee Sang-hoon, chairman of the Samsung Electronics board of directors, was taken into court custody after being sentenced to 18 months in prison in his first trial on charges related to busting labor unions at Samsung Electronics Service (Samsung SVC), an affiliate of Samsung Electronics. Lee was among seven current and former high-ranking Samsung executing receiving prison sentences for their involvement in union-busting operations. The ruling comes six years after prosecutors first launched an investigation in 2013 into organized Samsung SVC union-busting activities.

Judge Yu Yeong-geun of the 23rd criminal division at Seoul Central District Court held sentencing on Dec. 17 for 32 defendants in the Samsung SVC union-busting case, who had been indicted on charges including violation of the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act, Personal Information Protection Act, and Labor Standards Act. The court delivered guilty verdicts on all counts regarding the Samsung managers’ interference in operations to undermine unions by gathering personal information about members and persuading them to leave the union. It also handed out prison sentences to five Samsung senior executives responsible for planning and executing such operations, and well as a Samsung Electronics labor-management strategy advisory committee member and an intelligence police officer.

Eighteen-month sentences were handed out to Lee Sang-hoon, who has been described as one of Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong’s “closest associates,” and Vice President Kang Kyung-hoon, who was affiliated at the time with the Samsung Group’s Future Strategy Office (FSO), which served as the control tower for formulating and executing labor-management strategy. Samsung Electronics Vice President Mok Jang-kyun, former Samsung SVC President Park Sang-bum, and Samsung SVC Executive Director Choi Pyeong-seok respectively received prison sentences of one year, 18 months, and 14 months. A former intelligence police officer surnamed Kim and a labor attorney surnamed Song who took part in Samsung’s union-busting activities received sentences of three years and 10 months, respectively. Suspended sentences were handed out to Samsung Card CEO Won Gee-chan, Samsung Electronics Vice President Park Yong-ki, and Samsung C&T President Chung Kum-yong.

Ruling punishes Samsung Group’s “organized conspiracy” against partner companies

In response to the 2013 establishment of a union at affiliate Samsung SVC, Lee Sang-hoon and other Samsung Group executives and staffers organized a union-busting campaign, referred to as its “greening” effort. The strategy was executed by a response task force and situation room created within Samsung Electronics and Samsung SVC. Accusations were also raised of company money being used to provide gifts to pacify family members of deceased union members and of labor-management negotiations being deliberately delayed. Executives with the Korea Employers Federation (KEF) and intelligence police officers also actively intervened to support Samsung’s union-busting activities. The court recognized thousands of Samsung documents related to union-busting as evidence of an “organized conspiracy” extending from the group level to its partner companies. For the first time, the court also ruled that the relationship between Samsung SVC and repair technicians employed by its partner business was one of “illegal dispatching” rather than lawful subcontracting.

The sentencing marks the end of the first trial in the Samsung SVC and Everland union-busting case, which began in the wake of the 2013 disclosure of the so-called “S Group labor-management strategy document.” Reinvestigations of the two cases were launched last year after the discovery of some 6,000 documents during prosecutors’ raid on the Samsung Group’s Seocho building for an investigation into the payment of DAS-related legal costs on former President Lee Myung-bak’s behalf. In 2015, prosecutors decided not to press charges in the case. Samsung Electronics did not share an official position on the trial that day.

By Jang Ye-ji and Kim Han-sol, staff reporters

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