Samsung Group heir Lee Jae-yong said on May 6 that he will not hand over the managerial control of South Korea’s largest business empire to his children. He also vowed to abolish the group’s “no labor union” policy.
Lee made these promises during a news conference which was held to make a rare public apology over the wrongdoings related to the transfer of the group’s management rights to him from his bedridden father and Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee.
"Samsung has failed to strictly comply with laws and ethics, and also has not done enough in communicating with society," Lee said. "I apologize for all of these," he said.
Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, made the apology at the recommendation of the group’s independent compliance committee. The seven-member panel made the recommendation on March 11, urging him to come up with measures to improve the group’s compliance culture in three areas: managerial succession, labor affairs and communication with society.
The committee originally asked Lee to make an apology by April 10, but the date was pushed back by a month due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The controversial succession process at Samsung Group involved a bribery scandal and the merger of the group’s two affiliates -- Samsung C&T Corp. and Cheil Industries Inc. -- in 2015.
Lee was indicted in 2017 for giving bribes to a close confidante of then President Park Geun-hye to get government support for his succession to the throne of South Korea's top conglomerate.
He was initially sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 but was freed a year later as the Seoul High Court reduced the sentence to two and a half years, suspended for four years, dismissing most of the bribery charges against him.
The Supreme Court, however, overturned the ruling last year and sent it back to the Seoul High Court for a review.
Lee said that he will make sure no controversy happens again regarding the transfer of managerial control.
As for labor union issues, Lee apologized to those who were hurt by the group's lack of tolerance toward labor union activities.
"From now on, I will make sure that Samsung no longer pursues no labor union policy," he said. "We will strictly comply with labor-related laws and will guarantee fundamental labor rights.”