(AFP) – The world’s biggest smartphone and chipmaker Samsung Electronics issued a rare apology yesterday after its chairman was jailed for sabotaging union activities.
Chairman Lee Sang-hoon and executive vice president Kang Kyung-hoon were both jailed for 18 months for leading a wide-ranging operation to deter staff at Samsung’s customer service unit operating a union.
Samsung Electronics is the flagship subsidiary of the Samsung group, by far the biggest of the family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebols that have propelled South Korea’s rise to the world’s 11th-largest economy.
Along the way it has fought ferociously against union representation, until local authorities in Suwon, where it is headquartered, last month certified the National Samsung Electronics Union, which is affiliated to a powerful umbrella group.
Mr Lee and Mr Kang were found guilty Tuesday of violating labour union laws, with prosecutors saying they had ordered subordinates to cut union members’ wages and discover and exploit details of their personal lives such as pregnancies and debt, among other tactics.
At the time Mr Lee was Samsung Electronics’ chief financial officer, and both men have been members of the now-disbanded Future Strategy Office, its key decision-making body.
The firm issued a joint statement yesterday with construction affiliate Samsung C&T – which has also had executives convicted of violating union laws – acknowledging their errors.
“We humbly accept that the companies’ understanding and view towards labour unions in the past fell short of society’s expectations,” they said.
They pledged to ensure no repetition.