Go to contents

Senior Samsung Lawyer Resigns to Protest Allegations

Posted November. 12, 2007 06:16,   


Lee Jong-wang, who had advised Samsung on legal affairs and led its legal division, resigned on Friday. In his e-mail sent to the Samsung planning division staff prior to the announcement, he criticized former Samsung legal division chief Kim Yong-cheol, 49, and branded Kim’s allegations as total lies. Kim recently made allegations about Samsung’s slush funds. Lee will officially leave Samsung today.

Lee’s resignation, experts believe, is a prelude to an upcoming legal battle between Samsung and Kim, which is likely to heat up this week.

“As a lawyer myself, I feel sorry for Kim’s lies”–

Lee argued in his Saturday e-mail, “I am in charge of the legal team. Kim has caused enormous harm to our company. I’m really sorry for it. Despite all the hype in the media, what Kim alleged was total lies.”

“Kim was a former prosecutor and had worked for our company for seven years as a senior in-house lawyer. Those facts embellish his allegations with persuasiveness and truthfulness. But they are not true. Kim and I are practicing lawyers. I am ashamed my fellow lawyer would tell such a blatant lie,” criticized Lee.

Lee explained, “Last August and September, Kim’s wife sent threatening letters to our company. I suggested that we should not respond to the blackmail attempts. I believed in integrity and the rule of law. Contrary to my belief, Samsung now faces a difficult time. I think I have to take responsibility. That’s why I’m resigning.”

As to Kim’s allegation that state prosecutors received illegal financial assistance from Samsung, Lee replied, “Do you know of any Samsung officer who has received an order to deliver the kickbacks?’

In the meanwhile, Lee also filed a motion with the Korean Bar Association to voluntarily disbar himself prior to the resignation. “I will not practice any longer,” he said.

Lee reportedly did not consult with Lee Hak-su, the second man in command at Samsung, prior to his announcement. A source said, “Director Lee [Hak-su] talked with Lee to try to make him change his mind about the decision deep into the night.”

Lee was a star prosecutor who held major posts in the prosecutor’s office. In 1999, when a bribery scandal engulfed the attorney general, he also resigned in protest.

Content of Kim’s wife’s threatening letters–

Samsung confirmed on Saturday that Kim’s wife sent threatening letters over three occasions to Samsung, which could reasonably be interpreted as “demanding money.”

Another senior Samsung counsel, Lee Su-hyung, told reporters Saturday, “Mr. Lee [Jong-wang] felt sorry for his wrong suggestion and the unexpected outcome. He advised us not to respond to the extortion attempts.”

As to the seemingly defensive position Samsung has taken, lawyer Lee Su-hyung replied, “Should Samsung file criminal claims against Kim, people will feel sympathetic toward Kim. That will not help find out the truth and resolve the case. The most important thing is to find the truth and tell the world who’s telling the truth. We will concentrate on that for now. When the world gets to know of the truth, then we will initiate appropriate legal actions.”

Some experts argue that the retiring Lee should have done so after the case was resolved. Concerning this argument, Lee Su-hyung explained, “This whole case is pretty simple in nature. All we have to do is prove facts. Controversies may arise during interpretation. In any case, truth is truth, and we cannot have two versions of truth.”

verso@donga.com bae2150@donga.com