SEOUL – Samsung Electronics heir and de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was today (August 12) granted a presidential pardon in a corruption case, lifting a legal cloud that has hung over his head since 2017.

Though Lee has been out of prison and conducting executive duties since last year, the head of South Korea’s national flagship firm might, feasibly, wish he could take a lower profile just now.

He is back on the front pages just as Korea Inc’s worst nightmare is becoming manifest: It is being forced into choosing between key trade partner China and strategic ally the United States.

Washington is seeking a decision from Seoul, within weeks, on whether to join the nascent “Chip 4” semiconductor alliance that would bind together American, Japanese, South Korean and Taiwanese chipmakers while deliberately excluding China.

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