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(LEAD) Biz community joins calls for pardon of Samsung heir

All News 17:08 April 27, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS Cheong Wa Dae's response in 2nd para)

SEOUL, April 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's major business lobby groups on Tuesday said they have submitted a petition for the pardon of Lee Jae-yong, the imprisoned de facto leader of Samsung Group, to the presidential office for the sake of the national economy amid a global semiconductor shortage.

Cheong Wa Dae, however, gave a terse response.

"(We) have not considered a pardon for him so far and also have no plan, for now, to do so," a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The five major lobby groups -- the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Korea Enterprises Federation, the Korea Federation of SMEs, the Korea International Trade Association and the Federation of Middle Market Enterprises of Korea -- presented a pardon recommendation letter for Lee to Cheong Wa Dae on Monday, according to them.

"Our semiconductor industry is facing new risks and a challenging situation, and if we see a delay in investment and business decisions because of a leader's absence who needs to oversee the company's management amid fierce competition of the chip industry, the country may lose the No. 1 status in a day," they said in a joint letter.

This file photo taken Jan. 18, 2021, shows Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong heading to a courtroom at the Seoul High Court in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Lee was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison by the Seoul High Court on Jan. 18 in a retrial of a bribery case involving former President Park Geun-hye.

The vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. was put behind bars again less than three years after he was allowed to walk free.

Given the prison time he already has served, Lee will be a free man in July 2022, unless he is granted a pardon or commutation.

Samsung Electronics is the world's largest memory chip producer and the No. 2 player in the foundry sector. It has been considering building a new chip facility in the United States.

Requests for Lee's pardon have been made by various sectors, from religious to political communities.

The Jogye Order, South Korea's largest Buddhist sect, earlier this month submitted a letter to the government to give Lee "another chance" for contributing to the country's economy. The Korea Senior Citizens Association also delivered a letter requesting a pardon for Lee.

Others have been posting petitions for Lee's pardon on the Cheong Wa Dae website.

The government has been discreet over Lee's pardon. Justice Minister Park Beom-kye recently said he has not reviewed any possibility of Lee's early release from jail.


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