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Domestic Issues May Preclude Samsung Vice Chairman from Attending Global Leaders Meeting
Hobbled by Knotty Legal Problems
Domestic Issues May Preclude Samsung Vice Chairman from Attending Global Leaders Meeting
  • By Michael Herh
  • June 10, 2019, 12:23
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Lee Jae-yong (left), vice chairman of Samsung Electronics talks with Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, at the Sun Valley Conference in Idaho of the United States in July 2016.

Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, is unlikely to attend this year's "Sun Valley Media Conference," a closed-door annual gathering of global economic movers and shakers to be held in the United States next month. Lee is facing knotty issues such as the prosecution’s investigation into Samsung BioLogics and a ruling by the Supreme Court regarding his role in the Choi Soon-sil scandal. Representing the Korean business community, Lee had participated in the event every year until 2016 to exchange ideas with key business leaders in the world.

The Alan & Co. Media Conference, sponsored by Alan & Company, an investment bank in New York, will be held in Mid Valley, Idaho, in the middle of July, said sources in Korean business circles on June 9. The event, also known as the Sun Valley Conference, is a major private U.S. economic exchange event that has been held annually since 1983 with the participation of leading figures from the global economic, cultural, and media sectors.

This year’s event will be attended by many global information technology (IT) leaders, including Tim Cook, CEO of Apple; Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway; Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook; Brian Roberts, chairman of Comcast; and Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank CEO.

Lee attended the Sun Valley Conference every year from 2002 when he was an executive director at Samsung Electronics to build amicable relationships with the world's business leaders and achieved some business cooperation results.

In 2013, Lee made a presentation before global leaders at the Sun Valley Conference. In 2014 Lee met with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and agreed to stop patent lawsuits between Samsung and Apple in all countries except for the United States. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, first met Lee at this event. Zuckerberg visited the Seocho office of Samsung Electronics in Seoul and plants in Suwon in Korea together with key executives of Facebook in 2014 to start business cooperation with Samsung.

However, Lee did not appear in the Sun Valley Conference for the past two years, In 2017, Lee was in jail due to the Choi Soon-sil scandal, and last year, he gave up participating in the conference because he had to take part in a smartphone plant opening ceremony in India which President Moon Jae-in attended. Some experts say that Lee will hardly be able to attend the event this year.

Lee has made 10 overseas trips since his release from prison last year. But he is facing tough issues. Most of all, the prosecution's investigation into the accounting fraud allegations against Samsung BioLogics is expanding to Samsung C&T’s merger with Cheil Industries and issues surrounding Lee’s management succession. Lee is also facing a ruling by the Supreme Court regarding the Choi Soon-sil scandal. He has little room for maneuver.