Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong will have to go through a formal trial for his alleged usage of propofol. Photo courtesy of Samsung Electronics

Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong faces another setback

Things couldn’t be worse for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong as the Samsung Group chief has to stand a formal trial over his alleged usage of propofol.

A Seoul court said on July 1 that Lee should undergo an official trial, a major turnaround after the prosecution only fined him in a summary indictment.

In early July, the prosecution levied him with a 50 million won ($45,000) fine as Lee’s propofol usage was not regarded as a serious offense. But the court decided on a formal trial.

A complaint about Lee’s propofol abuse was filed at the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission early last year. He was accused of having taken illegal propofol shots at a plastic surgery clinic between 2017 and 2018.

Lee’s attorney argued at the time that Lee used propofol, but only for medical purposes.

Lee was imprisoned this January for bribing former President Park Geun-hye during the father-to-son power transition proceedings.

He is serving a 30-month prison term, which will finish in mid-2022.

In time with the Aug. 15 Liberation Day, many expected that President Moon Jae-in will grant a pardon to Lee.

The country’s business lobbies have proactively asked President Moon to pardon Lee so that he can spearhead Samsung Electronics at a time when the world competes in the semiconductor business.

Samsung Electronics is the top global player in memory chips.

President Moon also expressed his sympathy for the requests, but the court’s decision may reduce the possibility of Lee’s pardon, according to observers.

“Anything can happen at the court. I don’t expect that the court would deliver a jail term, though. The worst-case for Lee might be a suspended jail term,” Prof. Son Tae-gyu at Dankook University said.

“But the formal trial may negatively affect President Moon’s decision on giving a pardon.”

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at or 82-2-6956-6698.