Late Samsung chief Lee Kun-hee laid to rest

The hearse carrying the casket of Samsung Electronics Co. Chairman Lee Kun-hee leaves the Samsung Medical Center funeral hall in Seoul, South Korea Oct. 28, 2020. - Bloomberg

SEOUL (AFP): South Korea's richest and most powerful industrialist, Lee Kun-hee, who turned Samsung Electronics into one of the world's biggest tech companies, was buried Wednesday (Oct 28) following his death at the weekend.

Lee died at the age of 78 on Sunday, six years after being left bedridden by a heart attack.

Under his leadership, Samsung became the world's largest producer of smartphones and memory chips, and the firm's overall turnover today is equivalent to a fifth of South Korea's gross domestic product.

It is by far the largest of the chaebols, the sprawling family-controlled conglomerates that dominate business in the country.

As well as his son and heir Lee Jae-yong, the Samsung Electronics vice-chairman, who has been the group's de facto leader since his father was incapacitated, several chaebol chiefs gathered at the the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, where the four-day funeral rites were held.

They included Lee's sister Lee Myung-hee, who is chairwoman of the Shinsegae retail group, and nephew Lee Jae-hyun, who heads the entertainment and food service conglomerate CJ Group, according to reports, along with the chairman of the Hyundai Motor group, Chung Euisun.

"I have been to many countries in the world, but I have never seen a man like him who did better than his father," a childhood friend said in a eulogy, according to reports.

Afterwards a stretch Lincoln hearse carrying his coffin and an LED light display reading "May the soul of the deceased rest in peace" emerged slowly and passed by around 100 reporters.

His eldest daughter Lee Boo-jin, the chief executive of Hotel Shilla, was seen sobbing on board a following bus.

The cortege passed by locations including Lee's home and office in Seoul, and Samsung Electronics' chip complex in Hwaseong, south of the capital, where employees stood holding chrysanthemums -- a flower of mourning in Korean culture -- to pay their respects.

"We will remember your footsteps forever," read a banner hung at one entrance, Yonhap news agency reported, while some workers shed tears.

Samsung flags have been flying at half-mast on company buildings.

Lee was laid to rest at a family grave site in Suwon where the late patriarch's grandparents are buried.

The chaebols drove South Korea's transformation from war-ravaged ruin to the world's 12th-largest economy, but have long been accused of murky political ties and stifling competition.

Lee Kun-hee himself was twice convicted of criminal offences, in one case for bribing a president, though he was later pardoned.

His son and heir Lee Jae-yong is currently being retried on corruption and other offences linked to the scandal that brought down former president Park Geun-hye.

He also faces a separate fraud case over company deals said to be linked to his succession as head of the group.

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