The chairman of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) has hinted at the potential parole of the de facto head of Samsung Group, Lee Jae-yong.

Business conglomerates have recently called for Lee to be pardoned, especially ahead of the August 15 Liberation Day, an anniversary on which South Korea's presidents have often used their right to grant a special pardon as part of efforts for promoting national unity.

Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group heir
REUTERS/Chung Sung-Jun/Pool

"(Lee) could possibly be freed on parole, not limited only to a pardon," Rep Song Young-gil said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Sunday. It is his first press interview since taking the party leadership.

Song also stressed that Samsung needs the leader of the conglomerate in office, not in jail, in order for investments to be made. "There are growing public calls that Lee needs to work in the semiconductor and vaccine sectors amid the pandemic," Song said.

Business lobby groups have sent similar letters to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae to ask for Lee to be pardoned, raising concerns over the absence of leadership at Samsung Electronics, the world's largest memory chip maker, when its rivals are ramping up investments to address a global chip shortage.

More than six out of every 10 South Koreans support the idea of pardoning Lee Jae-yong, the jailed de facto leader of Samsung Group, a poll showed last month. Only 27 percent opposed the idea, while the remaining 9 percent said they are undecided on the issue.

Those who support giving clemency to Lee outnumbered those who objected in all age and regional groups, according to the poll.