Samsung’s legal oversight committee requests more detailed reformation plans

Posted on : 2020-05-08 17:49 KST Modified on : 2020-05-08 17:49 KST
Committee still praises Lee Jae-yong for directly public apology, citing concerns regarding autonomy
Kim Ji-hyung, chair of Samsung’s legal compliance oversight committee, holds a press conference in Seoul on Jan. 9. (Baek So-ah, staff photographer)
Kim Ji-hyung, chair of Samsung’s legal compliance oversight committee, holds a press conference in Seoul on Jan. 9. (Baek So-ah, staff photographer)

Following the public apology delivered by Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, Samsung’s legal compliance oversight committee asked Lee to draw up a more detailed plan for improvement. At the same time, the committee praised Lee for delivering the apology himself. While the committee was evidently trying to navigate a middle course between Lee and public criticism, that just shows how hard it is for the committee to remain completely autonomous from Samsung.

“We think it’s meaningful that Lee made the statement himself and expressed his commitment to implementing the value of legal compliance,” the committee said in its regular meeting in the office of Samsung Life Insurance, in Seocho Tower, on May 7.

“This needs to be backed up by the establishment of a sustainable management system that will not fail in its obligation to comply with the law, a meaningful guarantee of the three rights of labor, and the restoration of genuine trust by civic society. We have asked Samsung affiliates to draw up more detailed plans for improvement in the near term,” the committee went on to say.

The committee’s position suggests its approval of the fact that Lee, during his press conference on Wednesday, responded to all the issues the committee had brought up on Mar. 11. The committee’s request for Samsung affiliates to prepare viable plans for improvement is thought to take into account public criticism that Lee’s remarks in the press conference weren’t concrete enough and didn’t include a detailed roadmap.

The committee seemingly struck a compromise between the interests of Lee and the Samsung Group on the one hand and public criticism on the other hand. If the committee had been critical of the press conference, it would not only have undermined the press conference’s significance but could also have had a negative impact on the ongoing trials and investigations connected with Lee.

But if the committee hadn’t acknowledged public criticism, the committee’s inherent limitations would have likely been highlighted once again. Since the committee was launched in February at the request of the court in charge of Lee’s retrial (after the trial was remanded by the Supreme Court), it has been dogged by suspicions that its purpose is to help Lee receive a reduced sentence. If only to assuage society’s suspicions on this point, the committee wasn’t about to issue a wholly positive assessment of Lee’s statement.

A heated discussion had been expected during the committee’s meeting on Thursday. Some committee members had reportedly pointed out the lack of specificity in Lee’s press conference the previous day. Other members thought it would be inappropriate to disparage the fact that Lee had issued a personal apology and clearly expressed his intention to comply with the law. “The committee members aren’t likely to have the same opinion,” a committee member who asked to remain anonymous told the Hankyoreh on the telephone prior to the meeting.

The committee appears to have arrived at its compromise position after considerable back-and-forth during its discussion of Lee’s apology: the meeting began at 2 pm on Thursday and lasted for nearly four hours. “Most of the committee members agreed that some parts of the apology seemed less sincere because of the lack of a specific plan of action,” one committee member told the Hankyoreh over the phone following the meeting.

The legal compliance oversight committee is chaired by Kim Ji-hyung, a former Supreme Court justice who is currently the managing attorney of the law firm Jipyong. The other members of the six-person committee are Ko Gye-hyeon, secretary-general of Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty; Kim Woo-jin, business professor at Seoul National University; Bong Wook, an attorney and former assistant prosecutor-general at the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office; Shim In-sook, a law professor at Chung-Ang University; and Lee In-yong, president of Samsung Electronics.

The main issue moving forward is likely to be the specifics of the improvement plan that Samsung will have to present the committee. If the resulting plan doesn’t appear to be very effective, it could provoke a clash of opinions among the committee members and ultimately sabotage its operations.

By Koo Bon-kwon and Song Chae Kyung-hwa, staff reporter

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Caption: Kim Ji-hyung, chair of Samsung’s legal compliance oversight committee, holds a press conference in Seoul on Jan. 9. (Baek So-ah, staff photographer)

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