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Samsung Chief Returns in Wheelchair

Posted February. 06, 2006 03:45,   


Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, who had been abroad for illness treatments, abruptly returned to Korea yesterday afternoon.

He left for the U.S. five months ago on September 4 amid the National Security Planning agency “X-file” scandal.

Lee entered the country via Kimpo International Airport at 8:20 p.m. from Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, Japan aboard his personal Boeing jet yesterday.

He appeared in a wheelchair with his right leg in a cast and his waist bound with an abdominal bandage. Samsung said that he had slipped and hurt his ankle during a walk last week.

Lee told journalists at the airport, “I’m sorry for the stir I caused for the last year, and I think I’m fully responsible for that.”

He added, “I failed to notice that Samsung was becoming too big and too slack in the domestic market because I was focused on our products winning first place due to fierce global competition. It is good luck that I noticed that in the middle of last year.”

Lee, a member of the International Olympic Committee, decided not to participate in the IOC general assembly that will be held in Torino, Italy, starting February 8. “I intended to do so, but I came back to Korea because of my foot injury,” he said.

A Samsung official said, “Chairman Lee will have his cast removed after one or two months.” But some say that his injury seems too well-timed, considering the difficult situation he was in regarding his decision whether to attend the IOC general meeting or not.

If he did, he would have been criticized for taking part in the Olympics while ignoring domestic issues. If he didn’t, some would have criticized him for reneging on his responsibilities to the Busan Olympic Committee and the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics bid. In the end, his foot injury gives him an excuse not to attend.

When asked how he lived abroad for five months, Lee said, “I got treatment, met people I had appointments with, and recuperated at home.”

After a question-and-answer session with journalists, Lee departed for his home in Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, surrounded by 20 bodyguards. At one point during his departure, a scuffle broke out between them and some of the 200 reporters at the scene.

Meanwhile, the finance investigation department of the Seoul Central District public prosecutor’s office says it has no plans to investigate Lee right away regarding the Samsung Everland CB transaction case, and that they are not considering a foreign travel ban on Lee.

The prosecution seized documents from three accounting firms that audited Samsung affiliates late last year and is analyzing their contents.

Regarding this, Lee said at the airport, “I think that both the prosecution and judges will look at the case and decide.”