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Steve Jobs' death to have limited impact on S. Korean biz, Samsung suits

SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- Although the death of Steve Jobs aroused waves of sadness and condolences among South Koreans on Thursday, his absence is not expected to have an immediate impact on the country's information technology industry or his company's bitter lawsuits with Samsung Electronics Co., local watchers said.

The late founder of Apple Inc., who died at 56, left indelible marks on the world's personal computing and mobile industries. Jobs played a pivotal role making mobile handsets part of everyday life and transforming the way people interact with digital devices, technology and even arts and education.

It was the release of the iconic iPhone that effectively triggered the mobile big bang in South Korea at the end of 2009, sending shock waves throughout the country's industrial circles, wireless markets and pushing government regulators to make changes.

Despite the radical changes that the iPhone and Jobs brought about in the Asian country during his lifetime, market insiders claimed that assessing the impact of his death on the domestic industry as a whole warrants a mid- to long-term approach.

"It is premature to talk about short-term effects. Some companies managed well after their chief executive officers stepped down and some didn't. We don't know yet which place Apple fits into," said Lee Sun-tae, a Seoul-based analyst at Meritz Securities Co.

Few companies are more strongly associated with their CEOs than Apple was to Jobs, who, according to reports, deeply cared about the company and was intimately involved in minute details of its operations until he handed over the seat to Tim Cook in August.

"I don't think there will be a short-term impact from Jobs' death as Apple has already transitioned to a post-Jobs system," said Jeong Ji-hoon, director of Kwandong University's IT Convergence Center. "There are longer-term concerns over whether Apple will stay as innovative as it has been (without Jobs)."

South Korea is home to Apple's mobile rivals, including Samsung Electronics, which has been locked in deepening legal disputes with the U.S.-based company.

The country is also home to many key component suppliers for the iPhone and the iPad, such as display panel maker LG Display Co.

Even Samsung is a major supplier of mobile processors for Apple, a relationship which, according to Samsung, prompted the Korean firm to exercise restraint in taking action against Apple in the past.

This changed earlier this week, when Samsung said it will take bolder actions against Apple. The Korean company filed motions with courts in France and Italy to block sales of the iPhone 4S, claiming Apple violated a number of Samsung's mobile patents.

As news reports of Jobs' death reached South Korea Thursday, Samsung's chief executive Choi Gee-sung paid tribute to Jobs, describing him as "a great entrepreneur" with an "innovative spirit."

A Samsung spokesman kept silent on whether the South Korean company's aggressive stance in the lawsuits against Apple would remain on course after the death of the U.S. company's founder.

"Today, we will not give comments on the Apple-Samsung lawsuits," the spokesman said.