Sam­sung leader is hit with bribery charges

In­dict­ment linked to im­peach­ment of South Korean pres­i­dent.

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - Choe Sang-Hun © 2017 The New York Times Sam­sung

The head of Sam­sung, one of the world’s largest con­glom­er­ates, was in­dicted on bribery and em­bez­zle­ment charges on Tues­day, becoming one of the most prom­i­nent busi­ness ty­coons ever to face trial in South Korea.

The in­dict­ment of Lee Jae-yong, the com­pany’s de facto leader, came at the end of a spe­cial prose­cu­tor’s 90-day in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a cor­rup­tion scan­dal that has al­ready led to the im­peach­ment of Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye. When huge crowds took to the streets in re­cent months to de­mand that she leave of­fice, they also called for the top­pling of Lee and other cor­po­rate ti­tans.

Lee was ar­rested on Feb. 17, a dra­matic de­vel­op­ment in South Korea’s strug­gle to end col­lu­sive ties be­tween the govern­ment and fam­ily-con­trolled con­glom­er­ates, or chae­bol, that dom­i­nate the econ­omy.

South Kore­ans have grown weary of en­demic cor­rup­tion and the coun­try’s tra­di­tional le­niency to­ward ty­coons ac­cused of white-col­lar crimes. For decades, pres­i­dents have en­tered of­fice vow­ing to end such fa­voritism, but they all even­tu­ally back­tracked. Anti-cor­rup­tion ad­vo­cates say Lee’s in­dict­ment and trial will be a test of whether the sys­tem can fi­nally make a dent in those cozy re­la­tion­ships.

Sam­sung has long been a sym­bol of power and wealth in South Korea, a na­tion that has trans­formed it­self from an agrar­ian econ­omy to one of the world’s tech­no­log­i­cal pow­er­houses. Sam­sung’s mar­ket cap­i­tal­iza­tion ac­counts for one-fourth of the value of all listed com­pa­nies in South Korea, and its main unit, Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics, alone ships 20 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal ex­ports.

Sam­sung also has a ma­jor pres­ence in Austin, where it op­er­ates one of the big­gest chip-man­u­fac­tur­ing com­plexes in North Amer­ica. The com­pany em­ploys about 3,000 peo­ple in Austin, where it pro­duces, among other things, ad­vanced low-power pro­ces-

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