Why Was Samsung’s Executive Chairman Fined?

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Samsung’s Executive Chairman Lee Kun-hee has recently been fined by the Seoul Central District Court with a fine of around 11 billion KRW (around 10 million USD) for charges relating to bribery and embezzlement. Lee, the son of the company founder Lee Byung-chul and former Chairman of Samsung Group, had previously been found guilty in 2008 on various counts of financial malpractice. Another ruling followed this in 2013 where he was convicted of embezzling funds and breach of Trust.

In May 2018, Samsung’s Executive Chairman, Lee Kun-hee, was fined by a South Korean court due to illegal possession and use of sedatives. His possession and use of these sedatives directly violated the country’s Pharmacy Act, resulting in a hefty fine and other possible criminal charges being filed against him

The current fine imposed by the Seoul Central District Court is due to his involvement in bribing politicians and government officials during his tenure as chairman from 2000 to 2008. In particular, he is accused of issuing millions in corporate bonds as gifts to political figures as part ofSamsung’s effort to influence legislation favourable to its business operations. In addition, it is alleged that he had also established slush funds for pay-offs related activities such as covering secret expenses for politicians and government officials who assisted him during his rule at Samsung Group.

Samsung’s Executive Chairman Fined Over Illegal use of Sedative

In May 2018, Samsung’s Executive Chairman, Lee Kun-hee, was fined by a South Korean court due to illegal possession and use of sedatives. His possession and use of these sedatives directly violated the country’s Pharmacy Act, resulting in a hefty fine and other possible criminal charges being filed against him. In this article, we will discuss this case’s background and its various legal implications.

Overview of Samsung Group

Samsung Group is a South Korean multinational corporation headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul. It comprises numerous subsidiaries and affiliated businesses, most of them united under the Samsung brand, and is the largest South Korean chaebol (business conglomerate). Since its foundation in 1938 as a trading company, it has diversified into areas including food processing, textiles, insurance, securities and retail. Lee Byung-chul founded it in 1938 as a small trading company in Seoul.

The core companies of the Samsung Group include:

  • Samsung Electronics (the world’s largest information technology company measured by 2017 revenues).
  • Samsung Heavy Industries (the world’s second largest shipbuilder measured by 2010 revenues).
  • Cheil Worldwide.

Other notable subsidiaries include Samsung Life Insurance (the world’s 14th largest life insurance company), Samsung Everland (operator of Everland Resort, the oldest theme park in South Korea) and Cheil Worldwide (the world’s 15th largest advertising agency measured by 2012 revenues).

The group has an extensive presence across many industries worldwide and some of its flagship operations outside South Korea include; Harman International Industries Incorporated which develops audio products for both consumer and professionals markets; Apple Inc., one of the world’s leading computer hardware companies; Epson America which manufactures digital imaging products like printers, scanners and more; Unisys Corporation which specialises in providing IT services such as cloud computing solutions; Sharp Corporation which manufactures advanced televisions and other electronics related products; Toshiba America Consumer Products Division which offers consumer products such as televisions for home use; Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd., a manufacturer of various electronic products from refrigerators to washing machines; Sony Electronics , a global leader mounting LED panels for TVs; Olympus Corp. , a major supplier of cameras to global marketplaces. In addition to these companies, several other important firms are part or wholly owned subsidiaries or ventures controlled by the businesses within the conglomerate.

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Overview of Lee Kun-hee’s Role in Samsung Group

Lee Kun-hee, the former Chairman of Samsung Group and son of Samsung’s founding father, was the face of the South Korean conglomerate. He spent almost three decades at the helm of Samsung, gracing it with his leadership and vision. During his tenure, Lee was credited for transforming the company from a small trading company to one of South Korea’s largest chaebols—multinational conglomerates.

Lee also served as a mentor and inspiration to many early- and late-career employees at Samsung Group. He created what has become known as “The Samsung Way”, an ethos that includes innovation, hard work, focus on quality products, dedication to customers’ satisfaction and a corporate philosophy that stresses long-term planning and growth.

During his tenure in office, Lee pushed through expansive acquisitions aimed at vertical integration (combining two or more stages into one company) and investing in R&D to create cutting-edge technology and give consumers access to products they didn’t previously have access to.

Despite these accomplishments and successes during his time at the helm of Samsung Group, months after stepping down from his position in April 2008, Lee was hit with multimillion dollar fines by South Korea’s competition authorities who charged him with antitrust violations related to various transactions he had personally approved while still chairman.


Samsung’s executive chairman Lee Kun-hee has been accused and sentenced to pay fines for illegally using sedatives, resulting in a three year suspended sentence. The allegations stem from an investigation by South Korea’s prosecutors, and have sparked debate about the extent of illegal usage of sedatives in the country. We will discuss the details around these allegations and the implications of this sentence further in this article.

Allegations of Illegal Use of Sedative

The Ministry of Justice in South Korea recently fined the executive chairman of Samsung Group, Lee Kun-hee, with a total fine of 5 billion won — approximately 4.8 million U.S. dollars — for his alleged illegal use of sedatives such as Propofol and Triazolam.

The government launched an investigation into the possible use of barbiturates by Samsung executives during business meetings in late December 2018 after a magazine reported that Lee had infused Propofol intravenously at a meeting at the company’s headquarters in January 2017 and that other Samsung executives had injected sedatives into their legs without consulting medical professionals or obtaining proper prescriptions.

In March this year, prosecutors searched and confiscated medical records from two clinics that they believed may have prescribed drugs to senior executives without any medical examinations or valid prescriptions. During this investigation, hair tests revealed that Lee not only received three injections on three different dates in 2017 as was originally reported by the magazine but also continued to receive further injections through 2018 until he suffered from a serious health incident in May 2019 which led to him being hospitalised for pneumonia for over a month.

Lee could have faced up to five years jail time with charges of criminal violations if proven guilty but was eventually fined due to his age, past contributions and potential health defects associated with long-term drug abuse. In addition, the Board of Audit and Inspection also acknowledged that the executive chairman lacked awareness about relevant laws. Still, its members felt heavy responsibility due to evidence showing that other company executives demonstrated similar behaviour regarding drug usage inside the company headquarters without proper regulations or monitoring systems in place.

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Investigation by South Korean Authorities

An investigation by South Korean authorities resulted in a fine and two-year prison sentence for Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd’s executive chairman, Lee Kun-Hee. The charges were based on allegations of accounting fraud and illicit transfers of corporate assets from Samsung to its affiliates. The investigation found that Lee Kun-Hee had used several techniques to evade taxes and obscure the true value of his financial holdings. To carry out these schemes, he allegedly directed subordinates at Samsung to create slush funds, falsify Korea Exchange documents, manipulate stock prices and establish offshore companies with untraceable accounts. He was also accused of instructing underlings at Samsung to illegally transfer corporate assets to his family members and other affiliates to avoid taxes on those assets.

The investigation alleged that these activities had gone on for over a decade and that the total amount involved was more than 35 trillion won (roughly 28 billion USD). Moreover, prosecutors argued that by directing subordinate managers to carry out these illegal transactions, he effectively forced them into committing white-collar crime as well , since they could be prosecuted for following his orders if caught. In light of this evidence, Lee Kun-Hee was found guilty of violating multiple laws related to financial fraud and breaking labour regulations concerning his subordinate employees; he was ultimately issued a fine and sentenced to two years in prison. Although he ultimately received a presidential pardon after serving four months in jail due to ill health , the case serves as an important reminder about the potential consequences of financial scandals.


Recently, the Seoul Central District Court ruled that Samsung’s executive chairman Lee Kun-hee had been fined for illegally using a sedative. The court found Lee guilty of ordering professional medical staff to administer the sedative to three Samsung employees in 2011 without their knowledge or consent. As a result, Lee was given a fine of 5 million won (approximately $4,400) for his illegal actions. Let’s take a look at the results of this court case and what it means for Samsung.

Fines Imposed by South Korean Court

On August 29, 2018, a South Korean court imposed fines of $7.8 million on Samsung’s executive chairman, Lee Jae-yong, due to his role in a bribery scandal involving former president Park Geun-hye. The ruling reversed an earlier court decision that had acquitted the executive of corruption charges stemming from the scandal. Lee was accused of bribing Park with millions of dollars in exchange for favours related to a 2015 merger between two Samsung affiliates and the use of corporate assets for personal gain. He was charged with bribery, embezzlement and various other offences related to the scandal, but he has denied all charges against him.

An investigation by South Korean authorities resulted in a fine and two-year prison sentence for Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd’s executive chairman, Lee Kun-Hee.

The fines imposed by the court constitute part of a combined prison sentence and fine totaling 12 years and $13 million for Lee’s crimes. He also received five years’ probation after being released from jail in 2018 pending appeal. In addition, the court also ruled that Samsung must pay about $4 million in fines for violating corporate governance laws, although this money does not come from Lee directly.

Impact of Fines on Samsung Group

The South Korean authorities have significantly increased their scrutiny of the chaebol system, of which Samsung is a part. This is evidenced by recent fines given to executives, like that against Samsung’s executive chairman Lee Kun-hee on 13 December 2016. The impact of the fine on Samsung cannot be understated: it is estimated to amount to 8 billion won (US$6.9 million). Furthermore, the fine will be detrimental to investors’ confidence in the conglomerate and its subsidiaries, as it currently holds ~25% market share in the global smartphone industry. The magnitude of this fine further serves as a warning for other conglomerates operating in South Korea, reiterating a much harsher stance from government authorities towards anti-competition practices and fostering greater corporate transparency.

Moreover, stock markets have reacted badly to news such as this with stocks falling 4.45% upon hearing news that Samsung’s executive chairman had been fined by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC). In addition to this dip in stock prices, credit rating agencies such as Moody’s Investors Service downgraded their outlook for Samsung Electronics Co Ltd from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’ shortly after charges were made public. On a positive note, many believe these new regulations imposed on chaebols such as Samsung will lead to fairer competition and encourage innovation; ultimately improving domestic consumers’ welfare in South Korea’s overcrowded markets.

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The South Korean special prosecutor’s office concluded a seven-month investigation into the country’s biggest conglomerates, and the results have been far-reaching. Samsung’s chairman, Lee Jae-yong, was fined $9 million for bribery and other corruption allegations relating to the company’s former president Park Geun Hye, who was impeached in 2017. The fine serves as a reminder of the potential risks posed by corporate misconduct to individuals and businesses.

Considering Samsung’s long history of antitrust violations and monopolistic practices, the fine offers hope that companies will be held accountable for their actions— even if it is several years later. Moreover, the impact of Lee Jae-Yong’s conviction has been felt across South Korea – from economic stagnation to social protests demanding justice – further underlining the global consequences of corporate wrongdoing.

More broadly, Lee’s case should remind us of just how important it is for companies to take ethical practices seriously. Companies must take steps to ensure that their staff understand the implications of illegal activity within organisations and know how to challenge any breach in conduct. Ultimately, such vigilance can help protect companies from being taken advantage of or seen as complicit in any unethical behaviour within their organisation — protecting them from potentially severe financial penalties and reputational damage.

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