Human Interest

Samsung chief Lee Kun-hee dies, aged 78

Seoul, Oct 25 (efe-epa).- Lee Kun-hee, the head of South Korea’s largest conglomerate Samsung Group, has died aged 78, the company announced on Sunday.

“Chairman Lee passed away on October 25 with his family, including Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, by his side,” Samsung said in a statement.

“Chairman Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business,” it added.

His son Jay Y. Lee, known as Lee Jae-yong and heir to the conglomerate, has been at the helm of the business since his father was hospitalized six years ago after a heart attack in May 2014.

The chairman’s daughter, Boo-jin, leads Samsung’s hotel operation, Hotel Shilla, while his other daughter, Seo-hyun, heads Samsung Welfare Foundation, according to Yonhap news agency.

He is also survived by his wife Hong Ra-hee and his funeral is expected to be a modest family affair.

Lee Kun-hee, the third son of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul, was South Korea’s richest man with a net worth more than $20 billion, according to Forbes.

He was also responsible for turning the conglomerate into a multinational entity with tech giant Samsung Electronics at the forefront.

Born in 1942 in Uiryeong county, South Gyeongsang province in the southeast of the country, he assumed the group’s leadership in 1987 following the death of his father.

From 1993 he decided to change the direction of the business to internationalize it, and made Samsung Electronics the world’s largest producer of memory chips and one of the most recognized consumer electronics brands in the world.

It is estimated that Samsung Electronics alone generates about 20 percent of South Korea’s gross domestic product.

After suffering a heart attack in May 2014, he was admitted to the Samsung Medical Center in south Seoul, and has remained bedridden since, with little revealed about his health, leading to continued speculation up until his death.

Following his death, Lee Jae-yong is expected to officially take charge as the chairman of the group and Samsung Electronics.

Lee Jae-yong is currently facing two trials for alleged corrupt practices, including over his alleged role in the so-called “Korean Rasputin” scandal that rocked the country in 2016 and led to the impeachment of then-president Park Geun-hye, who was sentenced to 32 years in prison. EFE-EPA


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