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Lee Kun-hee

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Lee.
Lee Kun-hee
Lee Kun-Hee.jpg
Born (1942-01-09) January 9, 1942 (age 74)
Taikyu, Keisho-hokudo, Japanese Korea
(now Daegu, North Gyeongsang, South Korea)
Nationality South Korean
Alma mater George Washington University
Waseda University
Occupation Chairman of Samsung
Net worth Decrease US$10.8 billion (June 2015)[1]
Korean name
Hangul 이건희
Hanja 李健熙
Revised Romanization I Geonhui
McCune–Reischauer Yi Kŏnhŭi

Lee Kun-hee (Korean pronunciation: [iːɡʌnhi]; born January 9, 1942 ) is a South Korean business magnate and the chairman of Samsung Group. He had resigned in April 2008, owing to a Samsung slush funds scandal, but returned on March 24, 2010. He speaks Korean, English, and Japanese. In 1996, Lee became a member of the International Olympic Committee. With an estimated net worth of $12.6 billion, he and his family rank among the Forbes richest people in the world. He is the third son of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul.[2]

In 2014, Lee was named the world's 35th most powerful person and the most powerful Korean by Forbes Magazine's List of The World's Most Powerful People along with his son Lee Jae-yong.[3] In May 2014, he was hospitalized for a heart attack.[4]

Early life[edit]

Lee has a degree in economics from Waseda University and an MBA from George Washington University.[2]


Lee joined the Samsung Group in 1968 and took over the chairmanship on December 1, 1987, just two weeks after the death of his father, Lee Byung-chul, who founded Samsung.[5] In the early 1990s, believing that Samsung Group was overly focused on producing massive quantities of low-quality goods and that it was not prepared to compete in quality, Lee famously said in 1993 "Change everything except your wife and kids" and true to his word attempted to reform the profoundly Korean culture that had pervaded Samsung until this point. Foreign employees were brought in and local employees were shipped out as Lee tried to foster a more international attitude to doing business.

Under Lee's guidance, the company has been transformed from a Korean budget name into a major international force and arguably the most prominent Asian brand worldwide. One of the group's subsidiaries, Samsung Electronics, is now one of the world's leading developers and producers of semiconductors, and was listed in Fortune magazine's list of the 100 largest corporations in the world in 2007. Today Samsung's revenues are now 39 times what they were in 1987, it generates around 20 percent of South Korea's GDP, and Lee is the country's richest man.[6]

On April 21, 2008, he resigned and stated: "We, including myself, have caused troubles to the nation with the special probe; I deeply apologize for that, and I'll take full responsibility for everything, both legally and morally."[7] On December 29, 2009, the South Korean government moved to pardon Lee Kun-hee.

On March 24, 2010, he announced his return to Samsung Electronics as its chairman.[8]

In an interview, Lee expressed pride in the fact that Samsung attracts the brightest minds in South Korea but added that his new goal is to attract talent from all over the world to ensure that Samsung will remain one of the top companies in the world for years.

Notable Samsung industrial subsidiaries include Samsung Electronics (the world's largest information technology company measured by 2011 revenues),[9][10] Samsung Heavy Industries (the world's second-largest shipbuilder measured by 2010 revenues),[11] Samsung Engineering and Samsung C&T (respectively the world's 35th- and 72nd-largest construction companies), and Samsung Techwin (a weapons technology and optoelectronics manufacturer).[12] Other notable subsidiaries include Samsung Life Insurance (the world's 14th-largest life insurance company),[13] Samsung Everland (operator of Everland Resort, the oldest theme park in South Korea)[14] and Cheil Worldwide (the world's 19th-largest advertising agency measured by 2010 revenues).[15][16]

Samsung produces around a fifth of South Korea's total exports[17] and its revenues are larger than many countries' GDP; in 2006, it would have been the world's 35th-largest economy.[18] The company has a powerful influence on South Korea's economic development, politics, media and culture and has been a major driving force behind the "Miracle on the Han River".[19][20]

Samsung scandal[edit]

On January 14, 2008, Korean police raided Lee's home and office in an ongoing probe into accusations that Samsung was responsible for a slush fund used to bribe influential prosecutors, judges, and political figures in South Korea.[21] On April 4, 2008, Lee denied allegations against him in the scandal.[22] After a second round of questioning by the South Korean prosecutors, on April 11, 2008, Lee was quoted by reporters as saying, "I am responsible for everything. I will assume full moral and legal responsibility.” On July 16, 2008, The New York Times reported the Seoul Central District Court had found Lee guilty on charges of financial wrongdoing and tax evasion. Prosecutors requested Lee be sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 350 billion won (approx $312 million USD). The court fined him just 110 billion won (approx $98 million USD) and sentenced him to three years' suspended jail time. Lee has not responded to the verdict.[23] Months later, South Korean president Lee Myung-bak pardoned Lee so he could remain on the International Olympic Committee.[6]

In 2010, the company's former chief legal counsel, Kim Yong-chul, published a book called "Think Samsung". It revealed shocking alleged details of Lee Kun-hee's personal corruption, claiming he stole up to 10 trillion won (approx $8.9 billion USD) from Samsung subsidiaries, destroyed evidence, and bribed government officials to ensure the smooth transfer of power to his son.[6]

Personal life[edit]

His siblings and some of their children are also executives of major Korean business groups.[24] As of 2010, his son Lee Jae-yong is vice chairman of Samsung Electronics. Lee Boo-jin, his eldest daughter, is president and CEO of Hotel Shilla, a luxury hotel chain, as well as president of Samsung Everland, a theme park and resort operator that is "widely seen as the de facto holding company for the conglomerate" according to Associated Press.[24] Lee's eldest brother's son is currently chairman and CEO of the CJ Group, a company holding businesses in food, beverages and entertainment. His second eldest brother's sons ran Saehan Media, one of the largest blank media producers. His older sister is the owner of Hansol Group, the country's largest paper manufacturer and producer of electronics and telecommunications. One of his sisters is married to Koo Ja-hak, brother of a former chairman of the LG Group and himself a former chairman of LG Semiconductor. He is currently running one of the largest food services firms in South Korea. Lee's younger sister, Lee Myung-hee, is chairwoman of the Shinsegae Group, the largest retail company in South Korea, with major holdings such as the Shinsegae Department Stores and E-Mart. His daughter Lee Yoon-hyung committed suicide in 2005.

In late 2005, Lee was tested for cancer at the MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston, Texas.[25]

Lee's older brothers Lee Maeng-hee and Lee Sook-hee initiated legal action against him in February 2012, asking a South Korean court to award them shares of Samsung companies totaling US$850 million (913.563 billion won), which they claim their father willed to them.[26] Court hearings began in May 2012. On February 6, 2014, courts in South Korea dismissed the case.[27] On May 11, 2014, Lee was hospitalized for a heart attack. On May 16, 2014, the AsiaN claimed that Lee had died, citing a whistleblower inside the firm. It deleted the article seven months later, saying it was unable to obtain further information to substantiate the claim. [4]



  • "One genius can feed millions of others. For the upcoming era where creativity will be the most important driver of business success, we need to hire the best. The economic value of one genius is more than $1 billion."
  • "The business world has changed significantly. It is becoming increasingly difficult to foresee what sectors will prosper or opportunities will arise in the future. But if you hire the best and brightest, you will solve whatever issues arise in the future."
  • "It is difficult to understand the true dimensions of a problem or a situation when so many things seem to be happening on the surface. This is why I urge my employees to analyze a given situation from various perspectives. This way of thinking allows one to see the true aspects of a situation, which, in turn, allows one to respond wisely in conclusion."
  • "Firing a CEO because his financial performance was poor is simply a bad decision. I've encountered several situations where a CEO once performed poorly in one sector then went on to perform much better elsewhere. This is one of the reasons Japanese corporations were able to compete successfully against US corporations."


  1. ^ "Lee Kun-Hee", Forbes (profile), retrieved July 2014 
  2. ^ a b "Profile: Lee Kun-hee". BBC. March 24, 2010. Retrieved 2013-03-02. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Power, John (7 April 2015). "Is Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee dead or alive?". The Korea Observer. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "King of Samsung: a chairman's reign of cunning and corruption". The Verge. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c King of Samsung: a chairman's reign of cunning and corruption
  7. ^, Samsung chief resigns from post
  8. ^ "Lee Kun-hee Returns to Samsung Helm"
  9. ^ "Technology - Samsung beats HP to pole position". Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  10. ^ Succession at Samsung – Crowning success
  11. ^ Park, Kyunghee (2009-07-28). "July 29 (Bloomberg) – Samsung Heavy Shares Gain on Shell’s Platform Orders (Update1)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  12. ^ "The Top 225 International Contractors2010". 2010-08-25. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  13. ^ "Global 500 2009: Industry: - FORTUNE on". 2009-07-20. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  14. ^ Valhouli, Christina (2002-03-21). "The World's Best Amusement Parks". Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  15. ^ "Cheil Worldwide Inc (030000:Korea SE)". 2010-09-15. Retrieved 2010-09-16. 
  16. ^ "Agency Family Trees 2010". Advertising Age. 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2010-09-16. 
  17. ^ Hutson, Graham; Richards, Jonathan (17 April 2008). "Samsung chairman charged with tax evasion - Times Online". The Times (London). Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  18. ^ "[초 국가기업] <上> 삼성 매출>싱가포르 GDP… 국가를 가르친다 – 조선닷컴". Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  19. ^ "Samsung and its attractions - Asia’s new model company". The Economist. 1 October 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  20. ^ "South Korea’s economy - What do you do when you reach the top?". The Economist. 12 November 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  21. ^ [1] Archived January 17, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Samsung chairman hints at possible resignation : National : Home" (in Korean). Retrieved 2010-12-28. 
  23. ^ The New York Times  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ a b Samsung promotes chairman's son to president, Kelly olsen, AP, 3 Dec 2010 Archived December 5, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Finding a Cure for Cancer | News | SNU Media | News & Forum | SNU
  26. ^ "Samsung Feud: The Court Case Begins". The Wall Street Journal. May 30, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  27. ^ Samsung boss Lee Kun-hee wins inheritance case appeal - BBC News

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Lee Byung-chul
Chairman of the Board of the Samsung Group
December 1987 – April 2008
Succeeded by
Lee Soo-bin
Preceded by
Lee Soo-bin
Chairman of the Board of the Samsung Group
March 2010 – present