Samsung Chairman Lee Sang-hoon yesterday was sentenced to 18 months in prison, following a South Korean court ruling that he violated labor laws with union-busting activities.
Lee “was immediately arrested in court to be sent to jail,” the Financial Times reported.
Lee’s violations came during his time as Samsung chief financial officer between 2012 and 2017; he has been chairman of the board since March 2018. Samsung VP Kang Kyung-hoon also received an 18-month prison sentence for his involvement, the Financial Times wrote. The sentences were handed down by the Seoul Central District Court.
In all, about 25 current and former Samsung executives were found guilty on similar charges of violating labor laws.
“The case largely focused on efforts by Samsung officials, including Mr. Lee, to dismantle the labor union at the company’s customer-service unit,” The Wall Street Journal wrote. “The court convicted Samsung officials on multiple charges, including gathering personal information on some union members, such as their marital status, personal finances, and mental-health histories.”
Samsung admits falling short of “society’s expectations”
Samsung released a statement today saying that the company’s “understanding and view towards labor unions in the past fell short of society’s expectations.”
As Samsung board chairman, Lee Sang-hoon “is responsible for convening quarterly board meetings and reviewing the company’s financial statements before they are sent to shareholders for a vote, among other responsibilities,” the Journal wrote.
State prosecutors found that “Samsung executives used various tactics to discourage union activities, including threatening to cut the wages of employees linked to unions and withdraw business from subcontractors who appeared union-friendly,” the Financial Times wrote.
Prosecutors also alleged that Samsung executives “clos[ed] sub-contracted firms with active unions,” used “sensitive information about union members to convince them to leave,” and “delay[ed] negotiations between labour unions and management,” a BBC article said.
The court found that anti-union activities were “masterminded by executives in the firm’s now-defunct elite strategy group” and that there were “‘countless documents’ detailing tactics to undermine union activities that were distributed to affiliates by the elite unit,” the BBC wrote.
“While Lee claims there were many areas he did not know much about, [we] cannot give him immunity only due to the fact that [he] was not aware of the peripheral areas,” the judge in the case said.
Lee was indicted on the charges in September 2018.
In another case, Samsung de facto leader and Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets abroad, and perjury. But an appeals court in February 2018 reduced his sentence and suspended some of the charges, letting him walk free after about a year in prison. (There is no relation between Lee Jae-yong and Lee Sang-hoon.)