Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong makes first overseas business trip since his release from jail

Lee Jae Yong departed for Europe on March 22 when Samsung celebrated its 80th anniversary in a low-key manner.

SEOUL - Mr Lee Jae Yong, the vice chief of tech giant Samsung Electronics Co., has made a business trip to Europe, company officials said on Sunday (March 25), embarking on his first official activity since being released from prison in February, Yonhap news agency reported.

Mr Lee's resumption of business activity as Samsung's de facto head comes 45 days after he was freed on suspended sentence after spending nearly a year in jail over bribery and other charges linked to a corruption scandal that led to the ousting of former President Park Geun Hye last year.

"Lee has left for Europe to seek to secure a new engine for growth and meet with global business partners," the company said.

Mr Lee, 50, departed for Europe on Thursday when Samsung celebrated its 80th anniversary in a low-key manner, Yonhap reported.

South Korea's top business group has been facing setbacks, with its chairman, Lee Kun Hee, unable to run the company due to ill health and his heir in jail over the scandal.

Industry watchers said Mr Lee's overseas trip appears to be aimed at exploring large-scale mergers and acquisitions that had been suspended due to his imprisonment, as well as finding a new source for revenues, according to Yonhap.

A lower court earlier handed Mr Lee a five-year jail term for giving 8.8 billion won (S$11 million) in bribes to Park and her confidante, Choi Soon Sil, in return for government backing of the merger of two key Samsung units, a process that was deemed vital in tightening his control of Samsung.

But an appellate court reduced this to 2½ years in prison with a stay of execution for four years.

Mr Lee, the heir apparent to the Samsung empire, has been making aggressive moves for Samsung, including offloading defence affiliates to Hanwha Group and selling chemical assets to Lotte Group.

Instead, Samsung has sought to foster biotechnology and automobile components businesses.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.