January 12, 2015 12:23
Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee marked his 73rd birthday in the Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul on Friday. Although his eyes are open 15 to 19 hours a day, he remains technically in a coma.
Two to three security guards stand in front of the door to his hospital room on the 20th floor, and only visitors with access cards are allowed in.
Samsung wished Lee a quick recovery on its intranet on Friday. A Samsung spokesman said, "We've tried a variety of methods, including electrical stimulation on his brain, but they have been ineffective. The condition of other parts of his body is now better than before he fell ill, and his diabetes and other ailments have been cured thanks to controlling his diet."
Hospital staff play "Star Wars" and Lee's other favorite movies in his room, as well as video clips of his grandchildren, because his doctors said exposing him to familiar sights and sounds could help him recover.
"He is highly likely to stay in hospital until spring, because it would be difficult to deal with emergency situations if he's moved to his home in Itaewon," the Samsung spokesman said.
Lee suffered a massive stroke on May 10 last year and marked his ninth month in hospital on Sunday.
Industry watchers say Samsung has managed well after forming an emergency management committee led by Lee's son and Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong.
After posting a record operating profit of W10.2 trillion in the third quarter of 2013, operating profit tumbled to W4.6 trillion a year later (US$1=W1,092). But Samsung managed to bring it back up to W5.2 trillion in the fourth quarter of last year.
Samsung plans to unveil the Galaxy S6 smartphone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in March and attempt to stage a comeback after losing market share to rivals Apple and smaller Chinese players.
But analysts say Samsung still needs the bold leadership that characterized Lee senior, including massive investment in R&D during severe slumps in order to prepare for the future.
The weakened leadership and slowdown in the search for future growth engines is becoming a problem. All eyes are on when the younger Lee will officially assume leadership of the vast conglomerate.
Lee Jae-yong "feels he should now focus on stabilizing the management of his company and the entire group," the spokesman said. "There will be no promotions for the time being."
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