The “pan-Samsung founding family” gathered at the memorial altar of the late honorary chairman of CJ Group, Lee Maeng-hee, who died last week of lung cancer in China.
It was a rare scene of public togetherness for the media-reclusive Lee clan, who have been reported to be rather distant from each other. Some business insiders suggest that the funeral of the eldest of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chull’s offspring could be an icebreaker for the family, which runs some of the country’s largest business enterprises.
Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong enters a funeral room at Seoul National University Hospital to pay tribute to the late Lee Maeng-hee, the elder brother of his father, Monday night. (Yonhap)
Those who showed up at the memorial altar at Seoul National University Hospital included family members of Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee.
Lee Kun-hee’s son and Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae-yong visited the altar Monday evening, shortly after his mother and Leeum director Hong Ra-hee as well as Hotel Shilla president Lee Boo-jin paid a visit.
Lee Kun-hee was the younger brother of Lee Maeng-hee and the two were reportedly not on speaking terms after Lee Kun-hee took over the Samsung helm in 1987, despite being the younger son. In 2012, Lee Maeng-hee, along with his sister Sook-hee, filed a suit against Lee Kun-hee demanding a portion of the trillions of won in inheritance from their father that Kun-hee had allegedly kept behind the other siblings’ backs. The court ruled in favor of Lee Kun-hee.
A thaw between the families was detected later when Lee Jae-yong signed a petition asking for Lee Maeng-hee’s imprisoned son and CJ Group chairman Lee Jae-hyun’s bail or parole.
Shinsegae chairwoman and Lee Maeng-hee’s youngest sister Lee Myung-hee visited the altar Monday night with her husband and Shinsegae honorary chairman Chung Jae-eun, her son and Shinsegae vice chairman Chung Yong-jin and her daughter and Shinsegae vice president Chung Yoo-kyung.
Lee Maeng-hee’s eldest sister, Hansol Group adviser Lee In-hee, and the family members of the late Lee Chang-hee, Lee Maeng-hee’s younger brother, also visited the parlor. The Lee Chang-hee family operated the now-defunct Saehan Group.
The late Lee Chang-hee, Lee Byung-chull’s second son, was allegedly banished from the business empire for having reportedly informed the government of the father’s business misdemeanors. Lee Chang-hee’s children have reportedly remained distant from their kin, too, but the descendants in 2012 filed a separate suit against Lee Kun-hee for some of Lee Byung-chull’s inheritance.
“The pan-Samsung family gathered a day before access for other people was allowed. It is not known whether they have spoken to each other about anything, but it is clearly a positive opportunity,” a business insider said. “Perhaps this is the first public gathering of the family in decades,” he added.
They were greeted by Lee Sun-ho, eldest son of CJ Group chairman Lee Jae-hyun, who is the eldest son of the late Lee. Lee Maeng-hee’s daughter and CJ vice chairwoman Lee Mie-kyung also flew from the U.S. to be beside her late father.
Only two people were thought to be absent from the scene -- Lee Kun-hee, who has been hospitalized for more than a year at Samsung Medical Center, and Lee Maeng-hee’s eldest son Lee Jae-hyun, who is being treated at SNUH for kidney failure.
Though Lee Jae-hyun was granted a visit during his state-confinement over tax evasion, his severe illness has prevented him from even leaving the ward. Lee Jae-hyun’s younger brother Lee Jae-hwan and Lee Sun-ho stood in for Lee Jae-hyun in playing the role of host in the funeral process.
Lee Maeng-hee’s memorial altar was also visited by many business and political leaders, including SK chairman Chey Tae-won, who was recently pardoned from his embezzlement charges by President Park Geun-hye, Doosan chairman Park Yong-maan and Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun. President Park Geun-hye and former high-ranking government officials also sent flowers and messages of condolence.
The funeral is scheduled for Thursday.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org