Samsung leader is hit with bribery charges
Indictment linked to impeachment of South Korean president.
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-