Lee Kun-hee died at the age of 78, the richest man in South Korea

The leader of the largest business conglomerate in South Korea was considered the richest man in the country

The Samsung Electronics group, the largest business conglomerate in South Korea, announced today the death at the age of 78 of its president, considered the richest man in the country. Lee Kun-hee had been admitted to a Seoul hospital since 2014 due to a heart attack that left him incapacitated.

The company has explained in a statement that its president has passed away “accompanied by his family, including vice president (of the group) Jay Y. Lee”, known as Lee Jae-Yong and that, as heir to the empire that his father directed, He has been in charge of the conglomerate since his father was bedridden more than six years ago.

Lee Kun-hee

A billionaire with a net worth of more than $ 20 billion

Lee Kun-hee, the third son of the founder of Samsung, Lee Byung-Chul, was to greater fortune Korea South with a net estimated at more than 20,000 million (approximately EUR 16,860 million), according to Forbes, and was the man who turned the conglomerate into a multinational entity with the technology giant Samsung Electronics at the helm.

“President Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung by turning a local company into a global leader in innovation and industrial power,” praised the company in the statement, adding, “His legacy will last forever.”

Lee Kun-hee died
Lee Kun-hee who was the president of the Samsung group


Under Lee Kun-hee, Samsung Electronics Co. became a global brand

Samsung is by far the largest of South Korea’s conglomerates dominating the world’s twelfth-largest economy. The company’s total turnover is equivalent to one-fifth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, making it crucial for the economic health of South Korea.

Under Lee Kun-hee, Samsung Electronics Co. became a global brand and the world’s largest manufacturer of smartphones, televisions, and memory chips. Samsung sells Galaxy phones and also makes the displays and microchips that power its rivals, Apple’s iPhones, and Google’s Android phones. Its businesses encompass, among others, shipbuilding, life insurance, construction, hotels, and amusement park operations. Samsung Electronics alone accounts for 20% of the market capitalization in South Korea’s main stock market.

Lee Kun-hee died
Lee Kun-hee, was the richest man in all of South Korea

Lee Kun-hee’s death comes at a difficult time for Samsung. When he was hospitalized, Samsung’s once-lucrative mobile business faced threats from upstart manufacturers in China and other emerging markets. Likewise, the death of the patriarch may lead to a possible restructuring of the conglomerate, since it owned 4.18% of the shares of Samsung Electronics and 20.7% of those of the insurer Samsung Life, the largest shareholder in Samsung Electronics.

The business conglomerate was caught up in the 2016-17 corruption scandal that led to the impeachment and imprisonment of then-President Park Geun-hye. Its executives, including young Lee, were investigated by prosecutors who believed that Samsung executives bribed Park to secure government backing for a father-to-son leadership transition.

Conglomerate history

Corruption, bribery and tax evasion

Lee Jae-Yong – known as Jay Y Lee -, son of the deceased and vice president of the conglomerate, was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 after being convicted of bribery and other crimes related to former president Park Geun-hye, then was acquitted of the most serious charges on appeal and released a year later. This case is still ongoing. In fact, next week the trial will begin to be repeated after the Supreme Court ordered it last year, considering that a series of millionaire payments that Jay Y Lee made in the framework of this plot had not been taken into account.

The heir to the throne Samsung also faces another lawsuit for alleged fraud and price manipulation of stock assets in the context of a controversial merger of two group companies carried out in 2015 to strengthen its leadership over the conglomerate. By then his father had already been hospitalized for a year in a private wing of the hospital that Samsung has in southern Seoul after having suffered a heart attack that left him incapacitated until his death.


Flower arrangements for Lee Kun-hee's funeral in Seoul
Flower arrangements for Lee Kun-hee’s funeral in Seoul

Succession processes

His health status has been the subject of rumors

In an earlier scandal, Lee Kun-Hee was convicted in 2008 of illegal stock trading, tax evasion, and bribery designed to pass his wealth and corporate control over to his three children. His state of health has been the subject of infinite rumors since Lee Kun-hee was never seen in public again after the cardiovascular episode and there were media that even assured that the medical center had hidden his death so that his relatives had time to tie the succession and hereditary process.

Although it is mere speculation, the truth is that it is calculated that just by inheriting the shares owned by the patriarch of the family, Jay Y Lee will have to pay the treasury in the next 10 billion won (about 7,470 million euros).

Amelia Warner– After graduating from NYU with a master's degree in history, She was also a columnist for many local newspapers. Amelia Warner mostly covers Entertainment topics, but at times loves to write about movie reviews as well.

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