“Samsung is a religion, and Chairman Lee is a god.” These were the words Masaki Oguro, an engineer at Samsung’s video camera business in Suwon, South Korea, used in a Bloomberg story to describe Samsung’s chairman, Lee Kun Hee:
Workers were told to park behind the plant because their ugly cars would offend the leader’s eyes. Mints were placed in bathrooms lest anyone’s breath smell of kimchi. Guards lined the road to greet his limo and a long, red carpet was rolled out. Everyone was reminded not to gaze down from the windows.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, Lee Kun Hee is Korea’s richest man, currently having a net worth of $US11.6 billion.
Yet Samsung may have to rely on someone with less of a G0d-like status to lead the company in the near future. The incumbent 72-year-old chairman has been hospitalized since having a heart attack in May. Samsung’s heir apparent is Lee’s only son, Lee Jae Yong.
The 46-year-old vice chairman Yong is more low-key than his father. So much so, that he has never even given a formal interview to the media.
But he may be the right heir to the throne — he’s approachable and tri-lingual, and he built a relationship with Apple founder Steve Jobs that helped allow Samsung to supply components to Apple devices.
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