Samsung: Group sacrifice
South Korea's giant disbands its controversial strategy unit.
“THE de facto dismantlement of the Samsung Group” was how South Korea's semi-official news agency, Yonhap, spun the news on February 28th that the sprawling conglomerate would scrap its Future Strategy Office, a management organisation of some 200 senior staff, and devolve power to individual affiliates as part of broad reforms.
The office had become for many South Koreans a vexing symbol of Samsung's secretive goings-on.
Longtime Samsung-watchers were less impressed.
The parallels with an earlier disbanding of the same office in 2008, when it was known as the Strategy and Planning Office, were striking.
Then, Lee Kun-hee, Samsung's chairman, had been indicted for his involvement in a multi-trillion-won slush-fund scandal.
Then, too, the group closed down the office to show it was serious about reform.
But by 2010 it was reborn as the Future Strategy Office.
Lee Kun-hee's son and presumed heir to the Samsung empire, Lee Jae-yong, is the one now behind bars.
This week he was indicted by a special prosecution team on charges of bribery and embezzlement.
Prosecutors have accused him of paying 43bn won ($38m) to “cultural organisations” closely tied to Choi Soon-sil, a former confidante of South Korea's president, Park Geun-hye.
In return he allegedly received state support for an important merger in July 2015 between two Samsung affiliates.
The tie-up was viewed as essential to the smooth transfer of power between the 75-year-old Mr Lee, who has been in hospital since 2014, and his son.
The family controls Samsung through a complex knot of cross-shareholdings between its 26 affiliates, which operate in businesses ranging from life insurance to smartphones.
The younger Mr Lee has said he provided the funds, but denies any bribery.