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The conviction and jailing of South Korea's top business tycoon heralds a drive to reform the country's giant conglomerates and loosen their grip on the economy, analysts said. When Lee Jae-yong, de facto head of the world's biggest smartphone-maker Samsung Electronics, was jailed Friday for bribing South Korea's former president and other offenses, the Seoul court condemned "corrupt ties" between business leaders and politicians. South Korea's chaebols, or family-run conglomerates, have long enjoyed close, opaque ties to political authorities.Several – including LG and Hyundai as well as Samsung – established global reputations while their hundreds of thousands of employees, often effectively hired for life, became the backbone of South Korea's new middle class.Imprisoning the vice chairman of Samsung for five years – even though the sentence could be reduced on appeal – shows that now no one is immune, the thinking goes.Corruption watchdog Transparency International, ranked South Korea 52nd out of 176 countries in its perceptions index for last year, well behind their neighbors Hong Kong, in 15th place, and Japan in 22nd spot.
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