South Korea won't arrest Samsung heir apparent in corruption scandal

Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong leaves a detention centre after a court refused to issue an arrest warrant over his role in a corruption scandal engulfing President Park Geun-Hye in Seoul early

Towards the end of 2016, which had already been a year to forget for Samsung, the company started getting dragged into an ongoing South Korean presidential scandal, which has led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. When asked about Park possibly granting special favors to her or anyone, she said, "The president is not such a person".

Samsung gave around $36 million to entities linked to Choi, according to The Wall Street Journal. The combination of Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T was seen as a key step towards ensuring a smooth third-generation power transfer to Lee.

"There is this widespread perception that the Lee family is above the rule of law", said Shim Jung Taik, an author of several books on Samsung and its corporate culture.

The case of Samsung Group's Lee Jae-yong shows how easily Korean conglomerates - however global they may be - can fall into a deep crisis for reasons not directly related to their business.

Lee, who became Samsung's de facto head after his father suffered a heart attack in 2014, is accused of bribing Choi Soon-Sil, Park's secret confidante at the centre of the scandal, and receiving policy favours from Park in return.

ENTREPRENEUR SHIN SEUNG HYUN, 31, who says no one is surprised that Mr Lee escaped arrest.

Samsung is South Korea's most high-profile company, and its sales are equal to about a fifth of the country's GDP.

The heir apparent of Samsung Group, South Korea's largest family-run conglomerate, appeared in court on Wednesday for determination on his arrest warrant which prosecutors sought two days earlier.

Last month, South Korean lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to impeach President Park over the scandal.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, also a potential contender for the top office, suggested in an online post that economic considerations had regrettably come ahead of establishing justice. Moon Hyung-pyo, the former health minister, was indicted Monday for allegedly pressuring pension fund officials to support the merger. Samsung Electronics, the group's crown jewel, is the world's biggest maker of smartphones and computer memory chips.

Prosecutors in particular are probing whether Samsung's payments were aimed at securing government approval for a controversial merger of two of its units in 2015.

Park, daughter of South Korea's late military dictator Park Chung-hee, has apologized for her relationship with Choi but has denied the charges leveled against her.

When he testified at a parliamentary hearing in December, Lee said he never ordered donations to be made in return for preferential measures and rejected allegations he received wrongful government support to push through the merger.