Chairman Lee Kun-hee of the Samsung Group, 78, died on Sunday after being hospitalized for six years. Chairman Lee successfully transformed Samsung into a global technology giant and established the groundwork for the South Korean economy’s rapid growth.
Lee Kun-hee suffered a heart attack in May 2014 and became bedridden ever since. Lee Jae-yong, the Chairman’s son, acted as the de facto chief of Samsung soon after. The Fair Trade Commission also acknowledged Lee Jae-yong as the group’s actual chief since 2018.
With the Chairman’s death, Samsung officially moved into a new phase under Lee Jae-yong.
Lee Kun-hee became heir to the conglomerate when his father, Lee Byung-chull, died in 1987 at 45. Lee Byung-chull originally founded the Samsung group, which started as a manufacturer of economic electronics. He made Samsung into a famous and world-class company delivering top of the line products.
The Chairman’s famous quote, “Change everything but your wife and children,” embodies his leadership style.
The Chairman studied at Tokyo’s Waseda University and later at the George Washington University School of Business in the US. Born in 1942 in Daegu, Lee Kun-hee was the third son of Samsung’s founder, Lee Byung-chull.
Under the Chairman’s leadership, Samsung branched into dozens of affiliates, including Samsung Life Insurance Co., and Samsung Electronics Co.
A Global Giant
Samsung persists at the core of the South Korean economy, and its outbound shipments account for over 20 percent of the country’s exports. The company stands as the largest smartphone maker and largest memory chipmaker worldwide with clients such as Apple Inc.
Samsung’s assets amounted to 8 trillion won (US$6.9 billion) when Lee took over and now became an estimated 400 trillion won.
FnGuide, a finance researcher, stated that Samsung’s capitalization increased from 900 billion won ($797 million) in 1987 to 318 trillion won in 2014. Sales also improved by 34 times from 9 trillion won to 33.8 trillion won.
Chairman Lee Kun-hee passed away with his family, including Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, at his side. The Chairman’s vision developed the company to become a leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business.
A simple family funeral would take place following the wishes of the family and the deceased.
Lee Kun-hee is survived by his wife, Hong Ra-hee, former director of the Leeum Museum of Art; his son, Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics; daughters, Lee Seo-hyun, chief of the Samsung Welfare Foundation and Lee Boo-jin, president of Hotel Shilla; and son-in-law Kim Jae-yeol, president of the Samsung Economic Research Institute.
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