Mea culpa from SamsungSamsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, who inherited control of the country’s top conglomerate, bowed low in a rare press conference apologizing for wrongdoings involved in his own rise to the top. He admitted that the conglomerate did not “strictly abide by law and ethics” to pursue growth. “It was my fault, and I am remorseful,” he said. He vowed not to break laws as “law obligation is not a value that can be compromised,” and he mentioned accounting misconducts at Samsung Everland and Samsung SDS and his ongoing bribery trial, in which he alleged to have bought favors from former President Park Geun-hye.
To show his will and commitment, Lee vowed to end the family tradition of keeping management of Samsung within the family. “I won’t hand down management control to my children,” he said. He also promised a change in the long-held corporate tradition of banning unions. Samsung is the first large conglomerate in which a family has kept management strictly to itself to declare an end to dynastic succession. Lee is abandoning a no-union policy upheld since his grandfather founded Samsung.
He went on with his mea culpa. He said he took “responsibility” for his executives being tried for union oppression at Samsung Everland and Samsung Electronics’ service unit. “I will seek harmony and cooperation with workers,” he said. His comments were in line with the global trend of paying heed to all stakeholders including employees and shareholders in management.
Actions must follow words for Lee’s sincerity to be believed. Lee’s apology came after an internal integrity supervisory board was launched in agreement with seven Samsung units after a court in his bribery trial ordered “radical actions” to ensure management is more law-abiding. Lee said the advisory board will stay active even after the trial ends.
Political power also must change. The judge in the court ordered Lee to come up with a solution in which Samsung can confidently reject bribery pressure from people in political power. The powers that be must stop twisting the arms of companies and collusive relations must be rooted out. All of society must abide by the law and insist that our corporate community stays clean.