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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 8)

All News 07:12 May 08, 2020

Samsung heir's apology
: Lee should turn words into action to prove his sincerity

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of Samsung Group, made a public apology Wednesday for various mistakes made by him and the nation's largest conglomerate. Lee's apology came by accepting the demands of the group's independent compliance committee, which also called for him to do away with Samsung's "union-free management" and improve its communication with civil society.

Lee is reaping the harvest of his own sowing. It is not only his misfortune but also a disgrace for Samsung Group, a global tech giant. We hope this will be the last time we see Lee bow his head to the nation for shameful reasons. Other family-run business groups with similar problems, including the transfer of management control by irregular means, ought to use the incident as an occasion for self-awakening.

Lee admitted his group could not live up to the people's expectations and disappointed them because it failed to abide by laws and displayed no ethics. He also made it clear that he would not hand over management control to his children and apologized for causing controversy over the group's hostile policy toward labor. Lee tried to strengthen his control over the group by increasing his equity stakes through irregular and unlawful means while avoiding inheritance and gift taxes. All these words and promises have no meaning until they are turned into actions.

The challenges facing Samsung at home and abroad are never easy. Moreover, the group is suffering from additional uncertainties because of the CEO's "judicial risk." Lee is now on trial, several trials in fact, including one concerning allegations that his company offered bribes to impeached President Park Geun-hye and her confidant Choi Soon-sil. Critics of the conglomerate suspect Lee's apology is aimed at gaining favorable rulings at these trials.

Samsung's managerial environment has been sharply aggravated due to the disruption of global supply chains amid the COVID-19 pandemic. To get over difficulties and make a massive investment in the future, the group requires strong leadership. Samsung Group, a global corporation based on collective intelligence, has many professional managers with excellent abilities and business acumen. Instead of lamenting over the owner's judicial risk, the group needs to prepare for the possible absence of Lee, depending on the results of the investigations and trials.

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