“American industrialists demand the release of the heir to Samsung, despite the anti-corruption promises of the Korean president”

En flying to Washington for his first official visit to the United States this Friday, May 21, the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, has some very difficult topics of conversation in mind. The nuclear power of its bulky North Korean neighbor, the vaccines that are lacking, Chinese hegemony … But now an unprecedented subject is invited into the discussions at the top: the fate of a prisoner of which some American industrialists are asking for the release.

Not just any, of course. The most powerful and the richest, Lee Jae-yong, heir and chairman of Samsung, South Korea’s largest company and global electronics giant. He is currently serving an eighteen-month prison sentence for bribing the former President of the Republic of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, in order to strengthen his family’s control over the conglomerate.

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The affair is already old and had offended the Korean population to the point of claiming his post to the new president, who was elected on the promise of a vigorous anti-corruption campaign. In the Land of the Morning Calm, politics is not easy since the two predecessors of the current president are in prison for this reason, including the unfortunate Park. What to strengthen his determination.

Global chip shortage

The American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, however, officially calls for power. “We believe that the forgiveness of the most important executive of Samsung is in the economic interest of the United States and Korea”, assures James Kim, the director general of the institution, in the Financial Times. At stake, the investments promised to the United States by electronics, which amount to tens of billions of euros.

The pressure comes against the backdrop of a global chip shortage, which has forced General Motors and Ford to halt production of some of their models. And when the automobile coughs in Michigan, politicians worry in Washington. Joe Biden therefore planned a plan of 50 billion dollars (40 billion euros) to restore the sovereignty of the United States in the manufacture of electronic components, an activity largely dominated by the Taiwanese and the Koreans.

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Both have promised factories on American soil, but the industrialists would like it to go faster. Hence the pressure for this forgiveness, a practice widely used in Korea in the past, and which its people no longer want. This appalling affair is unlikely to succeed, but it demonstrates that despite “responsible” speeches, the American business community has lost none of its cynicism.