Samsung heir back in control of group

By Song Su-hyun

Lee prepares new outreach projects, job plans ahead of expected meeting with finance minister

  • Published : Jul 29, 2018 - 11:14
  • Updated : Jul 29, 2018 - 11:14

SUWON, Gyeonggi Province -- Around 1,600 middle school students on Friday enrolled in summer camps opened simultaneously at six universities across the country.

The Dream Class camp, in its seventh year being run by Samsung Electronics, is one of the pet projects of Samsung Group heir Lee Jae-yong, who seems officially back at the helm of the biggest South Korean conglomerate.

Lee made surprise visits to the camps in 2015 and 2016 with reportedly deep interest in the educational outreach program.

It had been highly anticipated for the scion to show up at one of the six universities, including Sungkyunkwan University in Suwon, this year to make his first public appearance at a domestic event for Samsung since he was released after serving a jail term in February.

“Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong has special interest in the Dream Class program, and personally believes in serving for the socially vulnerable,” said Won Gee-chan, CEO of Samsung Card, who participated in the camp on Sungkyunkwan University’s Suwon campus for the 11th time in five years.

Samsung Card CEO Won Gee-chan (fourth from left) attends a press conference at Sungkyunkwan University in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, Friday. (By Song Su-hyun /The Korea Herald)

After meeting President Moon Jae-in in India earlier this month, the Samsung heir, who has kept an extremely low profile, is apparently preparing for an official comeback.

“Samsung is seeking for a virtuous cycle in education, and we will do more to create such projects as well as more jobs,” Won said.

A total of 567 university students were selected to tutor middle school students who are educationally less privileged for three weeks, teaching them key subjects such as mathematics and English. Forty-seven of the tutors had been beneficiaries of the Samsung program themselves in middle school. 

Students participate in Samsung's Dream Class (Samsung Electronics)

Since its launch in 2012, the Dream Class project has provided lessons for around 73,000 middle school students and teaching opportunities for about 20,000 university students.

Samsung Electronics and other affiliates have spent approximately 130 billion won ($116 million) on the project in total, including 23 billion won this year.

“The essence of Samsung’s value is to make contributions for the human society,” Won said. “The Dream Class helps foster talented human resources, contributing to the national development overall.”

Even after Samsung’s Corporate Strategy Office control tower was shut down due to political pressure in 2016 in the wake of former President Park Geun-hye’s graft scandal, Samsung has maintained its education-related programs under the leadership of the biggest electronics unit.

“Samsung is soon expected to come up with new investment and job creation plans in order to show support for the current government’s economic policy,” said an industry insider. “The investment and job plans are projected to be the largest ever, considering the negative public atmosphere about Samsung.”

Samsung heir Lee is likely to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Kim Dong-yeon early next month, and is forecast to announce his plans at the meeting.

By Song Su-hyun (