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Tributes pour in for Samsung chairman

Renowned figures from the business, political and diplomatic communities made visits to Samsung Medical Center on Monday to pay tribute to the late Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

Starting with former and current executives of Samsung, hundreds of officials across industries, politicians, government officials and foreign ambassadors to South Korea mourned the loss of the Samsung chairman and recalled their memories of Lee. 

Samsung Vice Chairman Kim Ki-nam (Yonhap)
Samsung Vice Chairman Kim Ki-nam (Yonhap)
Former Samsung Electronics President Chang Choong-ki, one of Lee’s closest aides, was the first to visit on the second day. Chang didn’t leave any comment regarding Lee’s death. 

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Kim Ki-nam, current vice chairman of Samsung’s semiconductor business, as he walked into the hospital.

Kwon Oh-hyun, former chairman and current adviser to Samsung, also paid his respects. Kwon was the head of the semiconductor division under the late chairman’s leadership.  

Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun (Yonhap)
Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun (Yonhap)
From the business community, visitors included Chung Euisun, chairman of Hyundai Motor Group; Sohn Kyung-sik, chairman of CJ Group; and Park Yong-maan, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“I would like to express my gratitude for the chairman’s efforts that have taught us the ‘No. 1 spirit’ across all fields of the Korean economy,” Chung said.

Regarding a new Samsung under Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, Chung commented, “There would be a lot of changes in a favorable direction.”

Shinsegae Group Chairwoman Lee Myung-hee, the younger sister of the late Samsung chairman, visited the hospital with son Chung Yong-jin and daughter Chung Yoo-kyung.

Lee Myung-hee met with the bereaved family and expressed her deep condolences, the group said.

Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn said, “It’s a sad day.

“I respected him as if he were my biological brother,” he said. 

US Ambassador Harry Harris (Yonhap)
US Ambassador Harry Harris (Yonhap)
From the diplomatic community, US Ambassador Harry Harris, Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming and Turkish Ambassador Ersin Ercin were among those who attended the wake.

“Chairman Lee Kun-hee led Samsung to become a world-class company,” the Chinese ambassador said. “Samsung also has deep relations with China. Every time Chinese leaders have visited Korea, Samsung greeted them in a respectful manner and carried out measures related to economic cooperation between Korea and China in a very good and specific manner.

“I hope Korea’s economic cooperation with China to develop further under Lee Jae-yong’s leadership,” the ambassador said. 

Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming (Yonhap)
Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming (Yonhap)
The Turkish ambassador said, “Turkey is really sorrowful for the loss of Chairman Lee, one of the greatest personalities of Korean history -- not only in Korea’s history, but also the world’s history. We are sad because he has created a business empire that gives food to over millions of people.”

Political figures who came to mourn Lee included Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, former prime ministers Hwang Kyo-an and Kim Hwang-sik, and floor leaders of the Democratic Party and People Power Party Kim Tae-nyeon and Joo Ho-young. 

Park Jie-won, director of the National Intelligence Service, came to pay tribute to Lee and left without leaving a comment.

Samsung Chairman Lee died at 78 on Sunday, six years after being hospitalized due to a heart attack in May 2014.

An online memorial hall set up by the group was also filled with messages left by Samsung employees. As of Monday morning, over 19,000 posts had been left by employees of Samsung Electronics and other affiliates, mourning the loss of Lee.

By Song Su-hyun (