Samsung group’s de facto leader Lee Jae-Yong was released on parole on Friday, seven months after he was imprisoned over bribery.
The vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics offered a public apology, leaving the Seoul Detention Centre in Uiwang, 25 km south of Seoul, where his supporters and protestors had been waiting for the tycoon to come out.
“I apologise for causing people great concern,” Lee said, briefly speaking to reporters. “I am well aware of those concerns, criticisms and expectations of me.”
He was among 810 inmates who were granted parole by the Ministry of Justice in celebration of the August 15 Liberation Day, reports Yonhap news agency.
Some activists strongly complained about Lee’s early release, which they said showed excessive leniency toward him for his corruption.
Lee had been serving time since he 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.
He was convicted of bribing Park and her longtime friend to win government support for a smooth father-to-son transfer of managerial power at the conglomerate.
A grandson of Samsung founder Lee Byung-Chul, Lee has been running the conglomerate since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a stroke and became bedridden in 2014. Lee Kun-hee died in October.
Earlier this week, the ministry said it considered “the country’s economic situation and the conditions of the global economy amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic,” as well as “social sentiment, and (the prisoner’s) behavior and attitude” as factors behind the decision.
Lee should abide by parole conditions, such as reporting to the parole office in advance if he plans to move his residence or leave the country for more than a month, among other things.
He is also banned from returning to work at Samsung for five years under the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Economic Crimes. The ministry did not lift the restriction.
He is also on separate trial over the controversial merger of two Samsung affiliates and the vice chairman’s allegedly illegal use of propofol, an anesthesia-inducing medication.