[JURIST] South Korean officials announced Monday that President Lee Myung-bak [official website] plans to pardon former Samsung [corporate website] Chairman and CEO Kun-Hee Lee [JURIST news archive] on tax fraud charges he was convicted of in 2008. Lee had faced a suspended three-year prison term after an additional breach of trust conviction against him was vacated [JURIST reports]. The already lenient sentence given to Lee has been criticized [Korea Times report] as evidence of special treatment for the county's elite. Supporters hope that the pardon [Korea Herald report] will allow Lee to again assist the country in its bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and even resume his post with Samsung. The pardon is scheduled to take effect on Thursday.
Samsung, South Korea's largest corporation, has been at the center of numerous legal battles over the past few years. In May 2007, a South Korean appellate court upheld the conviction of two Samsung executives connected with illegal stock trading [JURIST reports]. In April 2007, another Samsung executive pleaded guilty [US DOJ press release; JURIST report] to US charges of conspiring to artificially inflate the cost of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), affecting the price of personal computers worldwide. In 2005, Samsung reached an agreement [JURIST report] with the US Department of Justice to plead guilty to charges that it conspired with other technology companies to fix prices on DRAM chips.