Moon Suggests Special Hall for Lee Kun-hee's Art Collection

  • By Jung Sang-hyuk, Song Hye-jin

    April 30, 2021 13:54

    President Moon Jae-in has suggested opening a special exhibition hall for the priceless art collection donated by heirs of the late Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, a Cheong Wa Dae official said on Thursday.

    It will be build either at the National Museum of Korea or the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art or become a new gallery.

    Lee Kun-hee and his art collection

    Culture Minister Hwang Hee told reporters on Wednesday, "The donation carries great significance in that there'll be a 'must-visit' exhibition hall in the country for foreign tourists."

    In his book on the collection, Lee Jong-sun, a former deputy director of the Ho-Am Art Museum, wrote, "Not every rich person can collect national treasure-level artworks. Lee Kun-hee's collecting activities were patriotic in that he contributed to preventing our national treasures from being smuggled out."

    Meanwhile, the international press was surprised at the massive W12 trillion Lee's heirs have to pay in inheritance taxes (US$1=W1,109).

    Korea "has one of the highest inheritance taxes in the world, at 50 percent when it exceeds W3 billion," Bloomberg News said Wednesday. "The average across the countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, is about 15 percent."

    By comparison, Apple founder Steve Jobs was worth about US$7 billion at his death in 2011, according to Forbes and his heirs were taxed $2.8 billion or about W3 trillion if the highest inheritance U.S. tax bracket of 40 percent was applied. Lee's assets were worth W26 trillion in total. In other words, Lee's heirs were taxed for times as much on assets worth only 3.3. times as much.

    "The inheritance tax bill -- one of the largest-ever in [Korea] and globally -- has been closely watched due to its potential to dilute the family's controlling stake in Samsung," Reuters commented.

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