Lee Kun-hee, chairman of the Samsung Group, Korea’s largest conglomerate, has passed away at the age of 78. According to an article by BBC.
Mr. Lee helped develop his father’s small trading business into an economic powerhouse, diversifying into areas such as insurance and shipping.
During his lifetime, Samsung Electronics has also become one of the largest technology companies in the world.
According to Forbes, he is the richest man in South Korea with a net worth of nearly 21 billion U.S. dollars (16 billion pounds).
Samsung said Mr. Lee died with his family by side on Sunday. However, it did not specify the exact cause of death. A heart attack in 2014 put him in care.
The company said in a statement: “All of us at Samsung will cherish his memory and are grateful for the journey we shared with him.”
Mr. Lee is the third son of Lee Byung-chul, who founded Samsung Group in 1938. He joined the family business in 1968 and took over as chairman in 1987 after his father’s death.
At the time, Samsung was seen as a manufacturer of cheap, low-quality products. But under his leadership, the company carried out a thorough reform.
Mr. Lee is famous for telling employees in 1993: “Let’s change everything except our wives and kids.” Then, the company burned all cell phone inventory including 150,000 cell phones.
Mr. Lee rarely speaks in the media and is known for his seclusion, earning him the nickname “the hermit king”.
Samsung is by far South Korea’s largest chaebol-family business group, dominating South Korea’s economy.
Chaebols helped promote South Korea’s economic transformation after World War II, but has long been accused of political and business uncertainties.
Mr. Lee has twice convicted of criminal offences, including bribing former President Roh Tae-woo.
After being accused of tax evasion and embezzlement of public funds, he resigned as chairman of Samsung in 2008. He was sentenced to three years probation for tax evasion, but was pardoned by the president in 2009 and continued to lead South Korea’s successful bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
He returned to the chairman of Samsung Group in 2010 but was bedridden due to a heart attack in 2014.
Mr. Lee’s son Lee Jae-yong has jailed for his role in the bribery scandal, which triggered the demotion of then President Park Geun-hye in 2017. Last month, prosecutors filed new charges against his position. Consolidated transactions in 2015.