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Ex-Samsung worker ends one-year protest atop 25-meter tower

Kim Yong-hee is seen waving a flag on May 7. (Yonhap)
Kim Yong-hee is seen waving a flag on May 7. (Yonhap)

A fired worker of Samsung Group ended his one-year protest atop a 25-meter tower in southern Seoul on Friday after reaching an agreement with South Korea's largest conglomerate.

Kim Yong-hee, a former employee of the now-defunct Samsung Techwin Co., has been involved in in a dispute with the group since he was fired in 1995. He claimed he was unlawfully dismissed for his activity to establish a labor union, which had been virtually banned by the family-controlled conglomerate until recently.

After 24 years of struggle demanding Samsung's apology and his reinstatement, he climbed up a traffic surveillance tower on June 10, 2019, and continued a sit-in for more than 300 days. Samsung Techwin, a defense equipment maker, was sold to Hanwha Group in 2015.

Earlier this month, Samsung Group heir Lee Jae-yong made a rare public apology over various controversies over the management of the conglomerate and vowed to scrap the group's "no labor union" policy. The group later made an apology for failing to promptly settle the dispute with Kim.

Samsung's actions came after the group's independent compliance committee urged Lee to make a public apology and improve Samsung's behavior regarding the issue of Lee's managerial succession, labor union relations and communication with civil society.

The belated apology also came as Lee faces an investigation into a controversial merger between two Samsung units, Samsung C&T Corp. and Cheil Industries Inc., in 2015.

Lee was summoned by the prosecution Friday for the second time this week in the investigation. Prosecutors suspect Samsung's top management was involved in efforts to facilitate Lee's managerial succession from his ailing father, Lee Kun-hee, and may have intentionally lowered the value of Samsung C&T prior to its merger with Cheil Industries to help benefit Lee Jae-yong.

He also faces a new trial on a bribery case involving a longtime friend of former President Park Geun-hye.

He was initially sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 but was freed a year later after the Seoul High Court reduced the sentence to 2 1/2 years, suspended for four years, dismissing most of the bribery charges against him. The Supreme Court last year sent the case back to the Seoul High Court for a retrial. (Yonhap)