Jailed Samsung heir appeals against conviction

SEOUL • Lawyers for the jailed heir to the Samsung empire yesterday filed an appeal against his conviction as South Korea's media divided on the ruling that put the country's top business leader behind bars.

Lee Jae Yong, the de-facto head of Samsung Electronics, was found guilty last week of bribing South Korea's ousted president Park Geun Hye and sentenced to five years in prison.

The official website of the Seoul Central District Court showed that Lee's lawyer Kim Jong Hoon filed an appeal but gave no details. Prosecutors have also said they will appeal the court ruling - to seek a harsher punishment for Lee.

A Samsung Group spokesman has declined to comment.

But a Samsung Electronics vice-chairman, Mr Kwon Oh Hyun, called the situation "regrettable" in a statement to employees of the world's biggest smartphone maker, Yonhap news agency reported.

"We should all steadily wait until the truth is revealed," it cited him as saying, urging them to "gather power and wisdom to overcome the unprecedented challenge".

South Korea's media has divided over the unprecedented imprisonment of the country's most powerful tycoon, with some newspapers condemning the ruling and others accusing their rivals of "kneeling" before the rich.

Samsung is by far the biggest of the chaebols, as the family-controlled conglomerates that dominate Asia's fourth-largest economy are known, with its revenues equivalent to around a fifth of the country's GDP.

Chaebols were instrumental in South Korea's economic rise but have long had murky connections with the political authorities and are also known to wield considerable influence over the media, potentially courtesy of their giant advertising budgets.

The JoongAng Daily, a company with close family ties to the Samsung Group, said in an editorial that an appeal by Lee would have "a good case".

The country's top-selling Chosun Ilbo daily, which is conservative in outlook, added: "The company faced retaliation if it rejected the president's request and faced punishment for bribery if it gave in."

But liberal papers heralded the ruling and slammed other media outlets for siding with the country's rich.

The Hankyoreh paper expressed concerns about the "amicable attitude towards Lee and Samsung" from "conservative media and business papers".

Their argument that evidence was lacking, it said, was "irrational", adding: "It is hoped they will no longer ask to become the press that kneeled before the chaebol."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'Jailed Samsung heir appeals against conviction'. Print Edition | Subscribe