Lee Kun-Hee, pressure powering Samsung’s increase, dies at 78

Lee Kun-Hee, the ailing Samsung Electronics chairman who transformed the small television maker into a world huge of consumer electronics, has died. He was 78.

A Samsung assertion claimed Lee died on Sunday with his spouse and children associates, which includes his son and de facto company main Lee Jae-yong, by his facet.


Lee Kun-Hee had been hospitalized considering that Might 2014 soon after suffering a heart assault and the more youthful Lee has operate Samsung, the most significant corporation in South Korea.

“All of us at Samsung will cherish his memory and are grateful for the journey we shared with him,” the Samsung statement stated. “Our deepest sympathies are with his relatives, relations and individuals closest. His legacy will be everlasting.”

Lee Kun-hee inherited management from his father and in the course of his nearly 30 a long time of management, Samsung Electronics Co. became a international manufacturer and the world’s largest maker of smartphones, televisions and memory chips. Samsung sells Galaxy phones although also building the screens and microchips that electric power its rivals, Apple’s iPhones and Google Android phones.

Samsung served make the nation’s overall economy, Asia’s fourth-major. Its firms encompass shipbuilding, lifetime insurance, development, lodges, amusement park procedure and more. Samsung Electronics on your own accounts for 20% of the industry capital on South Korea’s principal inventory market place.


Lee leaves behind immense prosperity, with Forbes estimating his fortune at $16 billion as of January 2017.

His dying comes throughout a complicated time for Samsung.

When he was hospitalized, Samsung’s the moment-profitable mobile organization faced threats from upstart makers in China and other rising marketplaces. Pressure was higher to innovate its usually robust components enterprise, to reform a stifling hierarchical tradition and to make improvements to its corporate governance and transparency.

Samsung was ensnared in the 2016-17 corruption scandal that led to then-President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and imprisonment. Its executives, including the younger Lee, had been investigated by prosecutors who believed Samsung executives bribed Park to secure the government’s backing for a easy management transition from father to son.


In a former scandal, Lee Kun-Hee was convicted in 2008 for illegal share dealings, tax evasion and bribery developed to move his wealth and corporate command to his three small children.

The late Lee was a stern, terse leader who concentrated on big-picture strategies, leaving facts and each day management to executives.

His in the vicinity of-complete authority authorized the organization to make bold choices in the quick-switching know-how market, these kinds of as shelling out billions to create new manufacturing strains for memory chips and exhibit panels even as the 2008 global fiscal disaster unfolded. Individuals dangerous moves fueled Samsung’s increase.

Lee was born Jan. 9, 1942, in the southeastern metropolis of Daegu all through Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. His father Lee Byung-chull had launched an export business there in 1938 and following the 1950-53 Korean War, he rebuilt the organization into an electronics and dwelling equipment producer and the country’s initially significant trading firm.

Lee Byung-chull was normally named one of the fathers of present day industrial South Korea. Lee Kun-Hee was the 3rd son and his inheritance of his father’s companies bucked the tradition of household wealth going to the eldest. 1 of Lee Kun-Hee’s brothers sued for a bigger component of Samsung but dropped the scenario.

When Lee Kun-Hee inherited handle from his father in 1987, Samsung was relying on Japanese technologies to generate TVs and was generating its initial ways into exporting microwaves and fridges.

The organization was increasing its semiconductor factories following coming into the business enterprise in 1974 by buying a in the vicinity of-bankrupt firm.

A decisive moment came in 1993. Lee Kun-Hee created sweeping adjustments to Samsung right after a two-month journey overseas convinced him the corporation essential to boost the quality of its solutions.

In a speech to Samsung executives, he famously urged, “Let’s modify every thing other than our wives and small children.”

Not all his moves succeeded.

A notable failure was the group’s expansion into the vehicle field in the 1990s, in section driven by Lee Kun-Hee’s passion for luxurious automobiles. Samsung later on marketed around-bankrupt Samsung Motor to Renault. The business also was frequently criticized for disrespecting labor legal rights. Cancer instances amid employees at its semiconductor factories have been ignored for many years.

In 2020, Lee Jae-yong declared heredity transfers at Samsung would stop, promising the management legal rights he inherited would not go to his children. He also reported Samsung would stop suppressing employee tries to arrange unions, even though labor activists questioned his sincerity.

South Koreans are the two happy of Samsung’s worldwide accomplishment and involved the firm and Lee relatives are over the law and influence over almost just about every corner of culture.

Critics specially note how Lee Kun-Hee’s only son received huge wealth by means of unlisted shares of Samsung corporations that later went community.

In 2007, a former firm attorney accused Samsung of wrongdoing in a e book that turned a best vendor in South Korea. Lee Kun-Hee was subsequently indicted on tax evasion and other fees.

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Lee resigned as chairman of Samsung Electronics and was convicted and sentenced to a suspended three-calendar year jail expression. He been given a presidential pardon in 2009 and returned to Samsung’s administration in 2010.

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