Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong was freed Monday after a South Korean appeals court gave him a 2.5-year suspended jail sentence for corruption in connection with a scandal that toppled the country's president. The Seoul High Court softened the original ruling against Lee, rejecting most of the bribery charges leveled against Lee by prosecutors who sought a 12-year prison term, the AP reports. While the ruling clears the way for the Samsung vice chairman to resume his role at the helm of the industrial giant after a year in prison, he faces many challenges outside prison. Chief among them will be winning trust that he is capable of running South Korea's biggest company, and assuaging public anger among those who viewed the court's surprise decision as a setback in the war on corruption.
"The past year was a precious time for personal reflection," Lee told reporters waiting outside the gates of a detention center in southern Seoul. Lee was charged with offering $38 million in bribes to former President Park Geun-hye and her confidant Choi Soon-sil, embezzling Samsung funds, hiding assets overseas, concealing proceeds from criminal activities, and perjury. The appeals court said Lee was unable to reject the then-president's request to financially support her confidante and was coerced into making the payments. The court still found Lee guilty of giving 3.6 billion won ($3.3 million) in bribes for equestrian training of Choi's daughter and of embezzling the money from Samsung funds. (A prosecutor described his bribery trial last year as "the trial of the century.")