Samsung chairman’s health slowly improves

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Samsung chairman’s health slowly improves

Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee’s condition has improved after he has spent a month in the hospital after suffering a heart attack, according to the Samsung Medical Center Monday.

A spokesman for Samsung Group’s future strategy communications team told the press that Lee has opened his eyes for up to seven or eight hours per day and has started moving his hands and feet.

“Moving hands and feet means that he is slowly recovering consciousness,” said a spokesman for Samsung Medical Center in Irwon-dong, southern Seoul, where Lee has been hospitalized.

It has been about two weeks since medical staff have revealed information about Lee’s condition.

Lee suffered acute myocardial infarction, the medical term for a heart attack, on May 10, and was taken to Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital in Hannam-dong, central Seoul, after he had difficulty breathing at his Hannam-dong home.

He then received CPR and was transferred to Samsung Medical Center the next morning where he underwent heart surgery. Lee was moved out of the intensive care unit nine days after he was admitted because his condition had reportedly improved.

However, even though the chairman is in better condition, industry observers forecast that it is unlikely that he will return to manage the company.

Samsung Group has remained calm under its temporary “system management.”

Lee has been in charge of big picture ideas at the company, such as directing management and future investments, while also entrusting management to the CEO of each affiliate.

In the chairman’s absence, Lee’s only son and the Vice Chairman of Samsung Electronics and Chairman of Samsung Everland Jay Y. Lee and the head of Samsung’s Future Strategy Unit Choi Ji-sung have had the most management responsibility.

The vice chairman is known for his interest in the electronic car battery business, one of the company’s flagship next generation focuses.

On June 4, Samsung SDI agreed to develop a lithium-ion battery for next generation cars with Ford.

Samsung SDI has already partnered with BMW, Chrysler and Indian car manufacturer Mahindra to develop a lithium-ion battery for electronic vehicles.

Samsung has also pushed toward sizeable restructuring, including its announcement last Tuesday that it will list Samsung Everland on the market, a move that was interpreted as a part of Samsung’s management succession process.

“Recently, Samsung is continuing with bigger and faster changes without hesitation,” said an industry official. “In fact, the health condition of the chairman seems to have heightened the tension within the group. Yet, there could be some blanks in the long-term strategy and investment sectors that the chairman had commanded.”

Samsung Electronics said it will hold a global strategy conference from June 25 to June 27 without Lee. Executives and global corporations will gather as usual to confirm business plans. 

BY KIM JUNG-YOON [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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