Samsung Group chief Lee Jae-yong opts not to visit the United States this month. He did not fly to America over the past five years. Photo courtesy of Samsung Electronics

Lee Jae-yong will stay home this month

Samsung Group chief Lee Jae-yong opted not to visit the United States this month, according to Samsung officials. Watchers come up with various reasons why Lee did not fly to America during the past five years.

Lee reportedly requested a visa to visit the U.S. during the Chuseok holidays this month. However, Samsung officials said that he has no plan to do so.

Lee’s last trip to U.S. took place in July 2016 when he attended the Sun Valley Media Conference, an annual closed-door gathering of global economic big names.

Lee does not avoid business trips; he has visited such nations as France, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam since 2016. He also frequently crossed the Pacific to the U.S. before 2016.

Some experts point out that his prosecution and imprisonment might be related to his reluctance to visit the U.S., one of Samsung’s biggest overseas markets.

Lee spent a total of 18 months behind bars in 2017 and 2021 for bribing former President Park Geun-hye in return for strengthening his grip on Samsung. Also included in his charges was embezzlement. The 53-year-old businessman was paroled in mid-August.

Lawyer Lee Sang-hoon said that Lee might be afraid of being prohibited from entering the U.S. on account of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

“Lee’s case is not a simple bribery case. It was related to the top political power of the country. Under the FCPA, a criminal may be subject to the investigation of the U.S. authorities,” he said.

Lawyer Kim Nam-geun disagreed. Instead, he said that the Samsung tycoon is trying not to cause any criticisms related to his employment ban.

Under the relevant law, those who committed embezzlement cannot work for the related companies for five years in Korea after their prison terms come to an end.

The country’s Justice Ministry said that Lee is allowed to lead Samsung, but controversies continue. In early September, Korean civic groups accused the Samsung head of violating the employment ban.