S. Korea pardons Samsung's Lee over 'economic crisis'

STORY: Samsung Electronics's Vice Chairman and former leader Jay Y. Lee, who was once jailed for bribery, was pardoned by South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol on Friday.

The act however was largely symbolic.

Lee is already out on parole, released last year after serving 18 months in jail.

But South Korea's Justice Minister said the move was weighed against more pressing issues:

"With an urgent need to overcome the national economic crisis, we carefully selected economy leaders who lead the national growth engine through active technology investment and job creation to be pardoned. By giving them a chance to take a part in the economic development once again, we would like to maximize our efforts to overcome the economic crisis.”

South Korea is grappling with inflation, and there are signs its struggling with weak demand and a spending slowdown.

It's also heavily dependent on tech and exportsand Samsung is by far the biggest of the country's conglomerates.

As well as the biggest maker of smartphones and memory chips in the world.

Analysts believe the presidential pardon could grant Lee more freedom to conduct business, and may mean big M&A moves are around the corner.

Others warn that legal risks still persist as Lee still faces charges of fraud and stock manipulation in another ongoing trial.

Lee, who is a descendant of Samsung's founding family, welcomed the decision and vowed to work hard for the national economy.

Lee had already returned to the limelight long before his pardon.

Last November, Samsung decided on Taylor, Texas as the site of a new $17 billion chip plant.

While in May, Lee appeared alongside President Yoon and U.S. President Joe Biden, on a visit to Samsung's chip production facilities.