Activist groups on Tuesday released a joint statement opposing the parole or pardon of de facto Samsung leader Lee Jae-yong, who is serving a 30-month sentence on bribery charges. File Photo by Jung Ui-chel/EPA
SEOUL, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- A group comprised of 1,056 activist and labor organizations issued a joint statement on Tuesday opposing parole or pardon for Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of Samsung who is serving a 30-month sentence for bribing former President Park Geun-hye.
Speculation has been widespread that Lee may receive some form of amnesty for his crimes, with local media reporting that Lee's case was reviewed for parole to be issued on Aug. 15, South Korea's Liberation Day holiday, by the justice ministry.
Rep. Song Young-gil, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, also suggested last month that Lee's case was under consideration for a presidential pardon, pointing to the need for the Samsung leader to be free to run the conglomerate, South Korea's largest company.
Lee is also awaiting trial on further charges connected to the controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates.
The pardon of a business leader who has committed serious economic crimes is "in direct opposition to the value of fairness," Park Jeong-eun, head of People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, said in an online press conference on Tuesday.
"The problem is that Lee Jae-yong, far from acknowledging and reflecting on his responsibility for these illegal acts, carried out systematic cover-ups such as hiding relevant evidence during the trial," the groups' joint statement said.
"If a person who does not meet the purpose and conditions of the parole system is released in line with public sympathy, who else will be released in the future?" the statement said. "The parole of Lee Jae-yong is no different from declaring the death of the rule of law."
Business leaders have been lobbying for a pardon of the 53-year-old Lee, citing the outsized importance of Samsung on the South Korean economy.
However, the activist groups said that Samsung has continued to perform well, despite Lee's imprisonment.
"Samsung no longer needs an imperial general who treats companies as his own and uses company money to commit crimes," the statement read.
Speculation has also been rampant that President Moon Jae-in is considering a pardon for his predecessor, who has been serving a 22-year prison term since March 2017 on corruption and influence-peddling convictions.
Park was swept out of power and impeached as a result of massive protests known as the Candlelight Revolution.
In January, then-leader of the Democratic Party Lee Nak-yon suggested that he would recommend a pardon for Park and former President Lee Myung-bak, who is also in prison on corruption charges, as a gesture of reconciliation.
In a recent poll, the public supported a pardon of Samsung's Lee, with 70% in favor. However, 56% were against amnesty for former Presidents Park and Lee.