Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee poses for a photo with ex-U.S. President George W. Bush at a hotel in Seoul on May 22, 2019. [Photo provided by Samsung Electronics Co.]
Samsung Electronics’ Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee enhanced his global credentials by stealing a private time with ex-U.S. President George W. Bush, who is in Korea to attend a memorial service for his former Korean counterpart Roh Moo-hyun marking the 10th year of his passing.
Lee, in 30-minute closed-door meeting with the former Republican president, reportedly sought his advice about the trade environment amid escalating U.S.-China tensions and business opportunities in the U.S., according to business sources on Wednesday.
Bush was invited to the 10th memorial service for the late liberal Korean president with whom he had clashed and cooperated on the North Korean nuclear issue and free trade agreement.
Lee’s ties with the former American president go back to 1998 when Samsung Electronics built its first overseas semiconductor plant in Austin, Texas, during the period when Bush served as the state governor.
The plant was originally set up as a manufacturing line for memory chips but in 2011 was converted into a foundry, a factory that fabricates the chip designs of other companies.
During his tenure as governor, Samsung received multiple awards from the governor’s office in recognition of its contribution to the local economy. The fab now employs 3,000 people. Lee reportedly sought the former president’s advice on strengthening business relations with Texas, where Bush has returned to live after leaving office.
The 49-year-old heir to Korea’s biggest corporate empire has been eager in global outreach since his release from prison earlier last year. In August 2017, Lee was convicted of bribing former President Park Geun-hye for help in strengthening his control over the Samsung conglomerate. The case was part of a massive corruption scandal that led to the impeachment and removal of Park. After serving a year in jail, Lee walked out a free man in February 2018 when the appeals court suspended his sentence.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc were the latest political leaders he had met recently.
By Kim Gyu-sik and Kim Hyo-jin
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