Updated Aug 12, 2022 - World

South Korean president pardons Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee

Jay Y. Lee, co-vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., in front of the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday, Aug. 12.

Samsung Electronics heir and vice chair Jay Y. Lee outside the Seoul Central District Court in South Korea on Aug. 12. Photo: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

South Korea's president on Friday pardoned Jay Y. Lee, Samsung Electronics' de facto leader who served 18 months in prison after being convicted of bribery and embezzlement.

Why it matters: The pardon will enable Lee, the grandson of Samsung's founder, to formally take the helm of the electronics giant at a critical moment as South Korea's government seeks to recover the country's pandemic-hit economy in the face of surging inflation.

Of note: Underscoring his influential role, the Samsung heir and company vice chair took President Biden on a tour of a semiconductor plant when he visited the city of Pyeongtaek, some 30 miles from Seoul, in May.

What they're saying: "With urgent needs to overcome the national economic crisis, we carefully selected economic leaders who lead the national growth engine through active technology investment and job creation to be pardoned," Justice Minister Han Dong Hoon said, per Reuters.

  • Lee said in a statement that Samsung released to news outlets he's grateful for the "opportunity to start anew" and "will contribute to the economy with continuous investment and job creation and give back the people and government's regards."

The big picture: Lee was released from prison in August 2021 with one year left on his 30-month sentence for bribing former President Park Geun-hye in exchange for government favors in 2015.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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