Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, arrives at a court for a trial in his bribery scandal involving former South Korean president Park Geun-hye in Seoul on January 18, 2021. (AFP / Jung Yeon-je)

Fake letter ‘from jailed Samsung heir’ circulates online in South Korea

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A letter purportedly written by the de facto chief of Samsung Lee Jae-yong has been circulating online since he was jailed on January 18, 2021. The letter claims he plans to relocate the South Korean tech giant overseas after serving his prison sentence for corruption. The claim is false: Samsung told AFP the letter is fake, while Lee emphasised his continuous support for Samsung’s compliance committee.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on January 21, 2021.

Screenshot of misleading Facebook post. Captured on January 21, 2021

“A special statement from prison,” the Korean-language text reads.

“I am Lee Jae-yong. First of all, I apologise to the South Korean people who support Samsung. I have no excuse for failing to behave properly owing to my negligence.”

“I am thinking of leaving this country. I will serve all the sentence I received. I will not beg for pardon.”

“We will relocate the company headquarters overseas. We will follow due process for this matter.”

“20.1.2021 from prison, Lee Jae-yong.”

Lee was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on January 18, 2021, after he was found guilty of bribery and embezzlement in connection with the scandal that brought down South Korea's former president Park Geun-hye.

Lee “actively provided bribes and implicitly asked the president to use her power to help his smooth succession” at the head of the sprawling conglomerate, the Seoul Central District Court said in its verdict.

He has effectively been at the head of the entire Samsung group for several years after his father was left bedridden by a heart attack, finally dying in October.

The letter was also shared on Facebook here, here and here and on Korean platform Naver blog here alongside similar claims that it shows a genuine message from Lee.

However, the claim is false.

Contacted by AFP on January 21, 2021, Samsung Electronics said the letter is “fake”.

In his first message from prison, Lee pledged to “continue supporting the compliance committee’s activities and also asked the committee members to keep up the good work in their jobs,” Samsung said.

Samsung’s compliance committee oversees the firm’s transparency in its corporate dealings, as reported here by AFP on May 6, 2020.

Richard Kang