Samsung head Lee Kun-hee, the most powerful businessman in South Korea, says he is to step down following his indictment last week for tax evasion and breach of trust.
According to Reuters, Lee made the announcement on national television yesterday. "I deeply apologise for causing concern to the nation and will take full responsibility for that," an he said in a brief statement.
Lee has been at the helm of South Korea's largest conglomerate – which accounts for about one-fifth of the country's exports – for more than 20 years. Analysts say, however, that he and his family will still control the corporation.
Further repercussions from the scandal will see the group dismantle its powerful strategic planning office, which critics say is an opaque organisation able to wield influence across some 60 affiliates, including flagship company Samsung Electronics, a world leader in computer memory chips and flat display screens. A Samsung spokesman says the reshuffle was the start of a process that would give its companies more transparency, its management more autonomy, and end a complicated cross-shareholding arrangement that gives Lee enormous power despite holding a tiny stake in group companies.
Lee's son, Lee Jae-yong, seen as his heir-apparent will also step down from his executive post and work abroad for the group in another, unspecified role, Reuters says.
Four other executives also resigned from their positions