“Businessmen are No. 2, bureaucrats No. 3, politicians No. 4!”
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“Businessmen are No. 2, bureaucrats No. 3, politicians No. 4!”
  • Lee Kyung-sik
  • 승인 2020.10.27 19:15
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The late Chairman Lee used to say ‘without fear or favor’:
Chairman Lee Kun-hee of the Samsung Business Group
Chairman Lee Kun-hee of the Samsung Business Group

By Lee Sam-sun, business editor of The Korea Post media
 
The late Chairman Lee Kun-hee of the Samsung Business Group in Seoul is well known for his witty remarks: “Politicians are No. 4, bureaucrats No. 3 and politicians No. 4!” Then who is “Number 1”? 
The answer came on April 11, 2020 when Chairman Lee Nak-yon of the ruling Democratic Party said, “We should all try to correct this situation where there is an expression, ‘The people are No. 1 and politics are No. 3!” 
The late Chairman Lee died at the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul on Oct. 25, 2020 at the age of 78. The late Chairman Lee was treated for lung cancer in the late 1990s and was tested again for cancer in 2005 at the MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston, Texas, with no subsequent concerns being announced. The late Chairman Lee was hospitalized in Seoul in May 2014 after suffering a heart attack, and lapsed into a state of coma, where he remained until his death on October 25.
During his life time, the late Chairman Lee often was candid and made remarks which, in the opinion of many people, were made ‘without fear or favor.’
When he visited China in 1995, the late Chairman Lee made the following remarks: “The Head of State of China took such a strong interest in the development of semi-conductor that he asked how much it would take to conduct research and development in semi-conductor. In contrast in Korea, there were many hurdles and the barrier was so high. When we submit application for a semi-conductor plant we need the approval signatures from a total of 1,000 different officials.”
The late Chairman meant that the outdated bureaucracy in Korea was like frogs inside a deep well who never knew the development taking place outside it. He deplored that such outdated practices of the administration posed great obstacles and hindrances to the economy that was seeking development and progress.
Many people ask: “How much difference has been made in the Republic of Korea in this respect for the past 25 years?!”
Braving all kinds of hardships and hurdles posed by some of the government officials, Korean business entrepreneurs work hard and secure adequate positions in the world market. And credit goes, substantially, to the business owners and operators.
The late Chairman Lee is a good example. Lee successfully surmounted the hurdles posed by the people in power.
And the late Chairman Lee typified most other leaders of Korea’s leading business conglomerates such as Hyundai, LG, SK, Kia, and POSCO. 
The Korean business leaders have a great deal of things to grumble about in connection with the measures and actions taken by the government.
According to Korean-language news reports (including Chosun Ilbo), to took a total of five years to secure a government approval for the erection of a power transmission towner.
The inheritance tax in Korea imposed to Chairman Lee Jae-yong of the Samsung Business Group from his just deceased father, Lee Kun-hee, is required to pay in inheritance taxes more than ten trillion Korean Won which is equivalent to 8.87 billion U.S. dollars.
Many people ask: “What if the government would impose such tax when the businessmen give up their business and sell it?” They also ask: “What benefit would the government officials bring to the country and people when they force the business leaders to use the time in tackling the succession taxes when they should involve themselves in business activities for the good for the country as well as for their business?
Many people in Korea, knowledgeable people, recommend that the government should leave the business people alone—so that they can work hard without having to worry about unnecessary hurdles posed by people who do not know business, especially business activities taking place in the international business world outside Korea, where the government officials are not so familiar compared with the Korean people who do business in all parts of the world.
This way, the business people employ more people, pay more corporate taxes, and bring money into the country made outside the country.
Currently, the Korean government is known to be working on legislating ‘3 controversial law bills’ aimed at imposing further controls on business activities. The three law bills, according to critics, force the business owners to use a great deal of time and energy in their effort to protect their management rights and properties.
This situation greatly hampers the business leaders from engaging themselves in maintaining or improving their competitive edge in their competition with other businesses in the outside world.
The late Chairman Lee Kun-hee used to say: “When you try to make a jet airplane fly twice the speed of sound, you cannot do it only by doubling the power of the engine, but you have to change the materials and everything else to achieve it.”
The world is ushering in an age of ‘Fourth Industry Revolution. At this time, it appears that it is all the more important that everyone make changes, including the government and the political arena—as well as the business world.
At this time, are the political circles in Korea ready for such a change? The answer, sadly, is nay.
The labor unions have a lot of members and the broad masses of people would rather pursue their immediate interests—rather than looking far into the future. 
Many people, who have the experience of visiting places overseas, all but invariably say, “We proudly say during our overseas tours and travel, ‘I am a Korean from South Korea!’ And many will agree that we owe much to our business people working hard overseas as well as in Korea to keep the Korean industries going and going strong!” 
The Korean business leaders have a great deal of things to grumble about in connection with the measures and actions taken by the government.
According to Korean-language news reports (including Chosun Ilbo), to took a total of five years to secure a government approval for the erection of a power transmission towner.
The inheritance tax in Korea imposed to Chairman Lee Jae-yong of the Samsung Business Group from his just deceased father, Lee Kun-hee, is required to pay in inheritance taxes more than ten trillion Korean Won which is equivalent to 8.87 billion U.S. dollars.
Chairman Chung Eui-sun of the Hyundai Business Group was quoted by a number of Korean-language media in Seoul on Oct. 26, 2020 as saying when he visited the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, “We are all grateful to you, Mr. Lee, for your strongly impressing us business people that we should all try to be second to none in all fields of our economy!”
Chairman Chung made the statement at the Seoul Samsung Seoul Hospital in the Gangnam District south of the Han River in Seoul.
The Hyundai Business Group at a time was an arch-rival with Samsung when the latter tried to join the automobile industry in Korea, which is today’s Renault-Samsung cars. Chairman Chung appeared to express his gratitude to the late Chairman Lee Kun-hee for his message to all the Korean business leaders, “We all should try to be second to none!”
Lee served as chairman of the Samsung Group from 1987 to 2008 and from 2010 to 2020, and is credited with the transformation of Samsung to the world's largest manufacturer of smartphones, televisions, and memory chips. He was also a member of the International Olympic Committee. 
He was the third son of Founding Chairman Lee Byung-chul of the Samsung 
Business Group. With an estimated net worth of US$21 billion at the time of his death, the late Chairman Lee was rated as the richest person in the Republic of Korea (south), a position that he had held since 2007.
There also were unfortunate days for the late chairman Lee.
Lee was convicted twice, once in 1996 and subsequently in 2008, on corruption and tax evasion charges, but was pardoned on both instances. 
In 2014, Lee was named the world's 35th most powerful person and the most powerful Korean by Forbes magazine's list of the world's most powerful people along with his son, Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong (soon to be chairman of the Samsung Business Group after his father, the late Chairman Lee Kun-hee).

Brief personal history of the late Chairman Lee Kun-hee (based on Wikipedia):
Lee Kun-hee was born on 9 January 1942 in Daegu, during the Japanese occupation of Korea. He was the third son of Lee Byung-chul, the founder of the Samsung group, which was set up as exporter of fruit and dried fish.
He went on to get a degree in economics from Waseda University, a private university in Japan. He studied for a master’s program in business from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., but did not get a degree.
Lee joined the Samsung Group in 1966 with the Tongyang Broadcasting Company, and later went on to work for Samsung's construction and trading company.
He took over the chairmanship of the conglomerate on 24 December 1987, two weeks after the death of his father, Lee Byung-chul. In 1993, believing that Samsung Group was overly focused on producing large quantities of low-quality goods and was not prepared to compete in quality, Lee famously said, "Change everything except your wife and kids". This call was an attempt to drive innovation at the company and to face up to the competition at that time from rivals like Sony Corporation. In a declaration now known as the 'Frankfurt Declaration', he had his executives gather in the German city in 1993 and called for a change in the company's approach to quality, even if it meant lower sales. The company went on to become the largest manufacturer of televisions beating Sony corporation in 2006.
Scandals and controversies:
Lee was convicted for having paid bribes to president Roh Tae-woo in 1996. He was subsequently pardoned by president Kim Young-sam.
On Jan. 14, 2008, Korean police raided Lee's home and office in an ongoing probe into accusations that Samsung was responsible for a slush fund used to bribe influential prosecutors, judges, and political figures in South Korea On April 4, 2008, Lee denied allegations against him in the scandal. After a second round of questioning by the South Korean prosecutors, on April 11, 2008, Lee was quoted by reporters as saying, "I am responsible for everything. I will assume full moral and legal responsibility.” On April 2, 2008, he resigned and stated: "We, including myself, have caused troubles to the nation with the special probe; I deeply apologize for that, and I'll take full responsibility for everything, both legally and morally."
On July 16, 2008, The New York Times reported the Seoul Central District Court had found Lee guilty on charges of financial wrongdoing and tax evasion. Prosecutors requested that Lee be sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 350 billion won (approximately US$312 million). The court fined him 110 billion won (approximately US$98 million) and gave him a three-years suspended sentence. However, on Dec. 29, 2009, President Lee Myung-bak pardoned Lee, stating that the intent of the pardon was to allow Lee to remain on the International Olympic Committee. In Lee Myung-bak's corruption trial, this pardon was revealed to have been in exchange for bribes; further bribery and other political corruption between former President Lee and Lee Kun-hee was also exposed.
Return to Samsung: On March 24. 2010, Lee announced his return to Samsung Electronics as its chairman. He continued in this position until 2014, when he suffered an incapacitating heart attack and his son, Lee Jae-yong, became the Samsung group's de facto leader. He is credited with having transformed Samsung into the world's largest manufacturer of smartphones, televisions, and memory chips. 
At the time of his death, the company was worth US$300 billion, and with an estimated net worth US$20.7 billion per Bloomberg's billionaire index, he was the richest person in South Korea; a position that he had held since 2007.
Following his death, Lee's heirs are expected to face an estate tax of around US$10 billion, which might potentially result in dilution of the family's stake in the conglomerate. This stems from South Korea's high estate tax of 50% for estates larger than US$3 billion, which is second only to Japan, amongst the OECD countries.
Personal life: Lee Kun-hee was married to Hong Ra-hee until his death. Hong is the daughter of Hong Jin-ki, the former chairman of the JoongAng Ilbo and Tongyang Broadcasting Company. 
His siblings and some of their children are also executives of major Korean business groups. Lee Boo-jin, his eldest daughter, is president and CEO of Hotel Shilla, a luxury hotel chain, as well as president of Samsung Everland, a theme park and resort operator that is "widely seen as the de facto holding company for the conglomerate" according to the Associated Press.
Lee had four children: the eldest child and the only son, Lee Jae-yong (born 1968), and three daughters, Lee Boo-jin (born 1970), Lee Seo-hyun (born 1973), and Lee Yoon-hyung (1979–2005).
Lee's older brother Lee Maeng-hee and older sister Lee Sook-hee initiated legal action against him in February 2012, asking a South Korean court to award them shares of Samsung companies totaling US$850 million (913.563 billion won), which they claim their father willed to them. Court hearings began in May 2012. On 6 February 2014, courts in South Korea dismissed the case.


(Inquiries: Lee Sam-sun at 010-5201-1740, 02-2298-1740)


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