Published: Mon, October 26, 2020
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Samsung chairman dies at 78, East Asia News & Top Stories

Samsung chairman dies at 78, East Asia News & Top Stories

Lee Kun-hee, who built Samsung Electronics into a global powerhouse in smartphones, semiconductors and televisions, died today after spending more than six years in hospital following a heart attack, the company said.

Lee's son, Jay Y. Lee, has led the company since becoming Vice Chairman in 2012 and is expected to inherit his father's title.

"Chairman Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business", the firm said, adding: "His legacy will be everlasting". Live Breaking News Headlines And Coronavirus Updates on October 25, 2020.

It is South Korea's largest family-controlled business conglomerate and helped make the nation's economy Asia's fourth-largest.

But Lee focused it and took it global: by the time he suffered a heart attack in 2014, it was the world's biggest maker of smartphones and memory chips.

Experts say the late Samsung Group chief's family may choose to pay the taxes over several years.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in paid tribute to Mr Lee for growing Samsung into a global brand with his "innovative leadership" and making it a key driver of the country's economic growth.

At around 5pm (0800 GMT), Lee's son Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, wearing a face mask, walked into the Samsung Medical Centre where a memorial was being held.

Lee studied at Japan's prestigious Waseda University and earned an MBA at George Washington University in the United States.

At a time when Samsung was producing cheap, low-quality products for mass export, he decided it was time to "change everything except your wife and children".

Lee married Hong Ra-hee - whose father was a justice minister - with whom he had a son and three daughters.

"The leadership he showed will be a great example and courage for our companies as they overcome the crisis and challenges ahead amid hard times we're under due to the coronavirus", President Moon was quoted as saying to the Lee family, according to the presidential office.

Lee was jailed for five years in 2017 after being found guilty of bribery and other offenses linked to former president Park Geun-hye, before being cleared of the most serious charges on appeal and released a year later.

Prof Chang said: "Lee Kun-hee was a very charismatic leader and people followed his orders".

"Samsung is still very much a top-down, bureaucratic company, so whether he can take control of Samsung is a big challenge".

The funeral will be a small family affair, Samsung said.

His passing was announced in a statement from Samsung.

Lee Kun-Hee's death comes at a time when the sprawling conglomerate is under enormous scrutiny.

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