It is likely that Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee will be hospitalized for an extended period of time. It is reassuring, however, that Samsung Group is not showing any sign of crisis and maintaining “business as usual.”
Lee’s physicians at Samsung Medical Center were quoted as saying that the 73-year-old chairman, who is under sedation, is in stable condition, with his heart functioning well and brain activity stable.
Lee was admitted to the hospital early Sunday morning after suffering a heart attack. He received CPR at a hospital near his home before being transported to the SMC, where he had his blood vessels widened.
At SMC, Lee received hypothermia treatment, which slows the cell metabolism to prevent generation of toxic material in blood vessels. It helped stabilize his heart and brain functions and Lee will continue to be sedated, according to Samsung officials.
They said Lee’s physicians also removed the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation used to provide oxygen to Lee, which means he is able to breathe without life support.
Judging from these latest developments, the medical treatment seems to be working, which raises hopes for a recovery.
Lee’s recovery and his health as a whole is an issue of immense public interest, because Samsung Group constitutes the lion’s share of the Korean economy. Its combined sales of 334 trillion won last year accounted for 25 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
Samsung has a public mandate to tide over any difficulties and remain as dynamic a locomotive and as solid a buttress of the Korean economy as ever. It this sense, Lee’s hospitalization should reawaken Samsung to the importance of ensuring a smooth transition of leadership. It should accelerate its management succession plans.
It would be better for a recovered Lee to hand over the reins, as did Pope Benedict Emeritus Benedict XVI, who abdicated over his health problems.