Samsung, the giant maker of products as varied as cargo ships and smartphones, is one of the driving forces of the South Korean economy. Now, the fate of its leadership could be tied to the sprawling investigation of a corruption scandal involving the nation's president.
Prosecutors on Monday called for the arrest of the company's heir-apparent, Lee Jae-yong. Prosecutors contend that Mr. Lee bribed President Park Geun-hye and one of her confidants in exchange for political favors.
The charges were leveled at a tough time for the company, which was struggling in some of its core businesses while trying to break from its past and forge a new management culture.
Samsung's Galaxy Note 7, intended to showcase its ability to innovate and challenge Apple for global smartphone supremacy, instead showed a propensity to burst into flames, and was recalled. Samsung has been without a chairman for two years, after the patriarch had a heart attack.
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The crisis is particularly difficult not only for the company, but for South Korea's relatively young democracy. One of the country's most important companies might be wounded, and the nation's leadership has been thrown into disarray.
Suave and mellow, Mr. Lee has often been portrayed as the right leader for a vast, stodgy business empire needing to refocus.
The bribery crisis has dominated the news for days in South Korea, where Samsung and other huge "chaebols," or family-controlled industrial empires, are embedded in politics and in the national identity. Samsung alone accounts for about 20 percent of South Korea's exports.