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[Newsmaker] Samsung heir one step closer to succession

Lee Jay-yong
Lee Jay-yong
Samsung’s heir-apparent Lee Jay-yong has taken the next crucial step toward inheriting the Samsung empire. His promotion to vice chairman of Samsung Electronics was widely expected, as the younger Lee has quickly gone through a number of high-ranking posts in recent years, including the position of president.

Explaining the move, a Samsung press release said the junior Lee was “recognized for his leadership in building Samsung into one of the world’s most loved brands and creating shareholder value,” and also “solidified Samsung’s global leadership as an IT component supplier.”

Additionally, they called Lee’s promotion “a part of an executive leadership change to lead Samsung’s future growth,” indicating that leadership change is indeed imminent.

Samsung’s de facto chief Lee Kun-hee is not getting any younger ― he’s 70 ― and as is customary in Korean culture, his only son Jay-yong is expected to soon fill his shoes. None of the elder Lee’s daughters were promoted this year.

As the next leader in line, the junior Lee will now have to up his game, as his role in the company has so far been low key compared to his headline-making father. The younger Lee rarely voices his opinion in public, and is known to frequently quote or refer to his father.

Samsung says the junior Lee was behind Samsung’s stellar display and semiconductor performance, but there is lingering doubt over exactly who is to credit: Lee the younger or Lee the elder.

As a new vice chairman, he will have to take more credit as the brains behind Samsung. Time is on his side, but if the company is up against a crisis, as his father is in habit of saying, he may have to speak up sooner on how he believes Samsung can overcome the challenges, just as the elder Lee has done in the past.

By Kim Ji-hyun (jemmie@heraldcorp.com)
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