Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee, who turned the group into a global telecommunications giant, died Sunday at the age of 78, the South Korean group said.
Under his leadership, Samsung has grown to become the largest producer of smartphones and microchips on the planet, the company's overall sales now equal to one-fifth of the country's gross domestic product.
Known for his lonely lifestyle, Mr. Lee had been bedridden since a heart attack in 2014.
Little information about his state of health has leaked out, leaving his existence shrouded in a halo of mystery until its last days.
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Lee Kun-hee, President of Samsung Electronics, the group said in a statement.
President Lee passed away on October 25 with his family, including Vice President Jay Y. Lee, by his side.
President Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung from a local company to a global leader in innovation and industrial power., greeted the company, adding:
His legacy will be eternal.
Samsung is by far the biggest
chaebols of the country, conglomerates controlled by families.
At the origin of the prodigious recovery after the Korean War, today the 12th largest economy in the world, they are today accused of having opaque links with political power and of hampering all competition.
Mr. Lee was himself convicted of bribery in 1996, then bribery and tax evasion in 2008. But he escaped jail, having been given a suspended sentence.
When he inherited the presidency of the Samsung Group in 1987, founded by his father, an exporter of fruit and fish, the company was already the country's largest conglomerate, with a business line ranging from electronics to large public to construction.
Mr. Lee then concentrated the activity of the company to make it an international group.
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When it suffered a heart attack in 2014, Samsung had become the world's largest maker of smart phones and memory chips.
Today, it is also a major global player in the field of semiconductors and LCD screens.
However, Lee Kun-hee rarely ventured outside the high walls of his private estate in central Seoul to get to the company's headquarters, which earned him the nickname of
His son Lee Jae-yong, vice president of Samsung Electronics, has led the company since the heart attack of 2014.
Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 after being convicted of bribery and other offenses related to former President Park Geun-hye, then was cleared of the most serious charges on appeal and released. one year later. This case is still ongoing.