By Kyle Mannisi, Opinions Editor
This year’s Winter Olympic Games have begun in the major South Korean metropolitan area of Pyeongchang. Meanwhile, South Korea’s largest company and major Olympic sponsor, Samsung, has been at the center of a recent massive controversy involving corruption, bribery, and perjury.
Samsung’s acting Vice Chairman and third richest South Korean, Lee Jae-yong, was found guilty in August 2017 of corruption and sentenced to five years in prison. Lee was found guilty of using over $3.3 million U.S. dollars to bribe government officials in 2015 to approve a controversial Samsung merger, resulting in more control of the company being given to Lee.
The scandal completely embroiled South Korea and reached the highest levels of government: the downfall of their disgraced former president, Park Geun-hye. However, a judge commuted Lee’s sentence after serving less than a year in prison, and Vice Chairman Lee was freed earlier this February.
By contrast, Samsung has been “extremely cautious” to advertise their brand at this Olympic Games, in an attempt to not appear insensitive to the recent developments that have placed them under scrutiny. However, this does not mean that Samsung would be entirely absent from the games. Samsung created the official 2018 Olympic Games app, and is handing out “4,000 special-edition Galaxy Note 8 smartphones to athletes and olympic staff.” This somehow turned into a diplomatic fight, as United Nations sanctions that have been placed on luxury goods imported to the countries of Iran and North Korea, meaning the two nations’ athletes will likely get snubbed on the giveaway. Iran took the news to be especially shocking, as Samsung operates Iranian stores and sells their products there.
Recently, leaked documents have revealed Samsung’s role in media manipulation, showing countless favors had been exchanged with journalists for kind words in their reporting. Seedy dealings between business, politics, media, and sports are all too common in Korea, as calls for a corruption crackdown have echoed for years.
Samsung just cannot seem to do anything besides harm everything they touch. Now, with the Olympic Games’ arrival in South Korea, the clear reality of Samsung’s bribes as a contributing factor to bring them there has set in, creating an awkward situation for everyone involved.