|(Kim Byung-wook/The Korea Herald)|
At 10 a.m. on Friday, Lee walked free from the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, Gyeonggi Province after being jailed for bribery.
Around 300 citizens and global media thronged the area in the hours before Lee’s release.
In front of the detention center’s gate, members of conservative civic groups held up placards and banners that said, “Thank you for everything you have done,” and “Please make best efforts to salvage the economy.”
On the other side, liberal groups, including those from The Justice Party, denounced the decision to release Lee early.
“I apologize for causing people great concern,” Lee said, briefly speaking to reporters. “I am well aware of those concerns, criticisms and expectations of me.”
The Ministry of Justice on Monday decided to grant a parole on Lee, citing that he met requirements for parole, including completing 60 percent of his jail term and showing good attitudes while in jail.
Justice Minister Park Beom-kye said, “The parole was decided considering the economic situation under the prolonging COVID-19 pandemic.”
Lee headed to the Samsung headquarters in Seocho, southern Seoul, immediately after release, and seems intent on being involved in company operations right away.
However, Lee will be on probation, under which he has to report to the authorities when travelling. The five-year restriction on his formal employment at Samsung will remain in place.
The Samsung leader was put behind bars on Jan. 18 after the Seoul High Court ruled a 2 1/2 imprisonment, saying that he was responsible for a total of 8.7 billion won worth bribes offered to former President Park Geun-hye.
Lee had served nearly a year in jail for the conviction from 2017 to 2018. He was released in February 2018 through an appeal. However, the Supreme Court in August 2019 rejected the appeal and ordered a retrial.