Ex-minister and pension fund chief convicted for role in controversial Samsung merger

Former Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo (Yonhap)

South Korea’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld two-and-a-half-year prison sentences for former health minister Moon Hyung-pyo and Hong Wan-sun, former head of the National Pension Service, for their roles in the controversial $8 billion merger of Samsung subsidiaries in 2015.

The final decision came more than five years after the two men were charged with abuse of power and preventing others from exercising their rights.

Moon was accused of coercing the NPS, a block holder of Samsung C&T with more than 10% stake, to vote in favor of the merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, a step that allowed the de facto leader to Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, to tighten its grip on control of Korea’s largest conglomerate. Moon was also accused of hampering the independence of the public pension fund over its voting decisions on the issuing company.

Korean courts found the merger case was associated with the corruption scandal that led to the ousting of former president Park Geun-hye in 2017 and Lee’s jail term in January 2021. Lee was acknowledged guilty of bribing Park while government-approved NPS votes came in exchange for bribery, according to court rulings.

In 2021, Park was pardoned by President Moon Jae-in, while Lee was on parole.

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