Lee Jae-yong, the heir to ownership of Samsung, has been sentenced to five years in prison following a bribery scandal involving Samsung and former South Korean President Park Geun-hye.


The New York Times reports that Lee and four other Samsung executives paid $6.4 million in bribes to the Park administration. The Samsung conglomerate controls one-fifth of the South Korean economy and a large portion of its gross domestic product, and the bribes were designed to secure political backing for a merger between Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries Inc. The Samsung scandal contributed to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

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Judge Kim Jin-dong, who sentenced Park, said:

The essence of this case is the unethical bond between politics and money. The people expect that the power of a president, the top authority under the Constitution, will be used to serve all people and that big businesses act with social responsibility, through legal economic activities. Through this case, the people have come to question the fairness and honesty of the president and have come to distrust the ethical values of Samsung, the largest conglomerate.

While we're most familiar with Samsung's electronics division, which is responsible for its smartphones and TV's (and much of its profit), Samsung Group has a wide variety of companies in it, including those involved in construction, South Korean national defense, display production, processor production, storage production, medical services, and financial services. It is unclear at this time what the sentencing could mean for the future of the Samsung Group.

Another charge Lee was found guilty of was hiding assets overseas and falsely testifying during his hearing on the scandal.

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