New York/Seol: Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for giving millions in bribes (Korea Times) to ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her confidante.
Lee was also found guilty of concealing overseas assets and perjury in a trial that resulted in sentences for four other Samsung executives, reports NYT.
According to Financial Times, Lee was expected to take over the electronics giant from his ailing father. Samsung overtook Apple as the world’s most profitable technology company last month after posting quarterly profits of $9.9 billion, but the ruling threatens to damage the reputation of South Korea’s largest company and marks a turning point for the country as it it pushes back against its mighty conglomerates.
News analysis by Council on Foreign Relations
“This was closely watched by the public here because giant, dynastic conglomerates—or chaebol as they’re called here—dominate the economy in South Korea,” Elise Hu writes for National Public Radio.
“The verdict in the Samsung case will be significant in determining what progress chaebol reform will make under President Moon Jae-In, who was elected in May after a populist campaign centered on loosening the grip of the country’s family-run conglomerates,” Shelly Banjo writes for Bloomberg View.
“His prison sentence now leaves Samsung without a leader called Lee for the first time. The vacuum is particularly pronounced because Samsung in February disbanded its Future Strategy Office—sometimes called the conglomerate’s ‘control tower’—after it was implicated in the case,” Anna Fifield writes for the Washington Post.
Former Thai Leader Missing Ahead of Verdict
Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is believed to have fled the country ahead of a verdict in a corruption trial reports BBC. Yingluck is accused of mismanaging a rice subsidy scheme and faces up to ten years in prison.
CFR’s Joshua Kurlantzick discusses what’s at stake in Yingluck’s trial.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Uzbekistan Moves to Freeze Assets of Former Leader’s Daughter
Uzbekistan’s prosecutor-general asked Russia to freeze real estate assets belonging to Gulnara Karimova, according to available reports. Daughter of late Uzbek President Islam Karimov. Karimova, charged with theft of $1.5 billion, has reportedly been under house arrest since 2014.
AFGHANISTAN: Gunmen attacked a Shia Muslim mosque in Kabul, during Friday prayers, according to AFP/AP. A police spokesman said a suicide bomber also detonated himself inside the mosque. The number of casualties was not immediately known.
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
UN Urges U.S. Coalition to Pause Raqqa Siege
The United Nations called on the U.S.-led coalition against the self-proclaimed Islamic State to suspend its assault on Raqqa to evacuate an estimated twenty-five thousand civilians, according to a BBC report.
CFR’s Gayle Tzemach Lemmon reported from Raqqa for PBS NewsHour.
ISRAEL/PALESTINE: White House senior advisor Jared Kushner met separately on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to restart peace talks, according to a VOA report.
Medical Charity Reports Rampant Looting in South Sudan
Armed groups have looted and destroyed two dozen medical facilities operated by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders over the past eighteen months, reports VOA.
U.S. Reviewing Sending Weapons to Ukraine
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said during a visit to Ukraine that the United States is “actively reviewing” sending arms there in the face of threats from Russia, according ot VOA. Mattis called such weaponry defensive saying Ukraine is “not an aggressor,” according to New York Times.
CFR’s Charles A. Kupchan writes in the Washington Post that giving Ukraine lethal weapons would be a mistake.
RUSSIA: Income inequality in Russia has increased more sharply than in other former communist states in Eastern Europe and in China, according to a new study. The report from a U.S.-based research firm estimates that assets held by Russians abroad (RFE/RL) is equal to those of all Russian households domestically, according ot VOA.
Credit: CFR, NY