Lee Byung-chull, one of the fathers of modern industrial South Korea, died Thursday of lung cancer. He was 77.
Lee, the chairman and founder of the Samsung Group--a top conglomerate with 26 large subsidiaries engaged in electronics, machinery, shipbuilding, textiles and hotels--started his business in 1938 and rebuilt it after the 1950-53 Korean War into a high-technology manufacturer and South Korea's first major trading company.
Often called "the richest man in Korea," he build Samsung from a small export-import operation to its current $16.5-billion value on the Fortune magazine list of the world's 50 largest corporations.
The group now has about 75,000 employees.
Lee was also publisher of one of Seoul's leading newspapers, the Joong-ang Daily News.
He served as chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries, an influential group made up of the country's leading businessmen.
He is survived by his wife, four sons and six daughters.