The hospitalization of Lee Kun Hee, the 72-year-old head of Samsung Group that includes Asia’s biggest technology company, has heightened scrutiny of succession planning at South Korea’s family-run conglomerates as they hand control to the next generation.
With North Korea escalating its threats to test a ballistic missile, South Korean President Park Geun Hye was conferring with Bill Gates on another pressing matter. Seated across from Microsoft Corp.’s billionaire co- founder on April 22 at a formal dining table in the Blue House, her official residence, Park picked the tech mogul’s brain about how to nurture entrepreneurs to keep the world’s 15th-largest economy humming.
South Korean investors were crushed by the market crash that swept the world three years ago. The Seoul stock exchange’s Kospi Index lost 41 percent during 2008, while the most popular mutual fund fell 39 percent.
About an hour south of Seoul, bulldozers are demolishing the last vacant factories at Samsung Electronics Co.’s Suwon campus, erasing signs that South Korea’s most valuable public company once made its headquarters in a smoke-fuming industrial complex.
SK Telecom Co., South Korea’s biggest mobile-phone company, offered to buy 20 percent of Hynix Semiconductor Inc. even as prosecutors investigate whether the chairman of the carrier’s controlling group misused funds.