Employees walk past a Samsung sign in Seoul, South Korea. Picture: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Employees walk past a Samsung sign in Seoul, South Korea. Picture: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Seoul — Samsung Electronics board chair Lee Sang-hoon was sentenced to 18 months in jail on Tuesday for sabotaging legitimate union activities, a South Korean court said.

Lee and about 25 other defendants were charged with sabotaging union activities by subcontracted workers at Samsung’s repair unit, Samsung Electronics Service.

When union activities took place at Samsung Electronics Service in 2013, the Samsung group’s now-defunct elite strategy office developed and implemented strategies to hinder the union’s operation, the Seoul central district court ruled.

Samsung executives and employees were involved in finding out sensitive information about union members to persuade them to leave the union, inducing the closure of subcontracting firms with active unions and delaying negotiations between labour and management.

Samsung Electronics declined to comment.

“This is a further signal of change for South Korean judicial system, which previously gave lenient sentences to convicted businesspeople,” said Park Sang-in, a professor at Seoul National University.

Samsung’s new leader, Jay Y Lee, needed to “build industrial relations which are in line with global standards”, he said.

The verdict follows last week's ruling by the same court that gave a 16-month jail term to Samsung Electronics vice-president Kang Kyung-hoon on charges of union-busting activities at a different Samsung affiliate.

Reuters