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Samsung's size could make it tough to keep its leader in prison

Samsung dominates South Korean business, social life in a difficult way for outsiders to comprehend

Eyup S Kwaak| NYT 

A South Korean court on Friday sentenced Lee Jae-yong (centre) to five years in jail.
A South Korean court on Friday sentenced Lee Jae-yong (centre) to five years in jail.

This is a partial list of the businesses of Samsung, the South Korean empire: smartphones, microchips, insurance, gas ovens, hospitals, dishwashers, cargo ships, stocks, microwave ovens, apartment buildings, vacuum cleaners, credit cards, pharmaceuticals, and

is South Korea’s No 1 brand and when all its products are added together, its single biggest export. It dominates South Korean and social life in a way that can be difficult for outsiders to comprehend.

That dominance may make it difficult to keep its top executive in

A South Korean court on Friday shocked the country by sentencing Lee Jae-yong, the third-generation de facto leader of one of the world’s largest empires, to five years in after his conviction of bribery, embezzlement and other Lee’s attorneys have said they will appeal, and experts predict a fierce legal battle.

Lee is not the first big figure in to be convicted, but if he stays in it would represent something of a milestone. His father, Samsung’s longtime chief, was twice convicted of crimes and twice pardoned by a South Korean president. Other top South Korean leaders have avoided conviction, negotiated light sentences or been allowed to run their empires from

South Korea’s government is now run by a president, Moon Jae-in, and a political party that have criticised the excesses of the country’s biggest That has many in predicting that  Lee, if his conviction is upheld, will serve out his term. But to many South Koreans, and its many offshoots symbolise the country’s rise from war and poverty to become one of the original Asian economic success stories. Should stumble while Lee is in prison, could mount to free him.

is the No 1 brand of Korea, one we’re proud of,” said Cho Wung-ki, a 78-year-old retired businessman, whose son works at a company that provides engineering services, runs resorts and owns a fashion line. “That’s why I don’t believe putting in helps the country at all.”

©2017 The New York Times Service

First Published: Mon, August 28 2017. 22:28 IST