On Friday, the independent corporate compliance oversight committee of Samsung Group proposed that the nation’s largest conglomerate rejoin the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) after withdrawing from the business interest group four years ago due to a high-profile corruption scandal involving its de facto leader Lee Jae-yong and the former President Park Geun-hye.
Chairman Lee Chan-hee declared that if another corruption case arises, Samsung should immediately leave the FKI. He further explained that the most contentious part of the discussion was whether the cozy relations between businesses and governments can be broken for good. He highlighted the importance of the FKI being able to hire its employees and operate without political interference.
Lee Chan-hee, Samsung Group’s compliance committee chairman, speaks before a meeting at Samsung Life Insurance’s Seocho Tower in southern Seoul on Aug. 18, 2023. (Yonhap)
In 2017, Samsung’s fifteen affiliates left the FKI as part of Lee’s commitment to reforming the company after the scandal. Lee was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in 2021, but was released on parole that same year. Then, in 2022, he was pardoned and fully reinstated. To ensure future compliance with laws and ethics, the committee was established in 2020.
The recommendation is likely to start a debate among the three other major conglomerates – SK Group, LG Group and Hyundai Motor Group – about rejoining the FKI. In May, the FKI announced a reform plan that includes changing its name and incorporating the Korea Economic Research Institute.
This file photo, taken Aug. 10, 2021, shows the corporate logo of Samsung Electronics Co. at its office building in Seoul. (Yonhap)