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Samsung chairman hospitalized after heart attack

– Samsung Electronics Co. Chairman Lee Kun-hee was hospitalized in stable condition at a Seoul hospital Sunday after suffering a heart attack, the company said in a statement.

Lee, 72, was rushed to a hospital near his home in central Seoul late Saturday after experiencing breathing problems and received CPR due to symptoms of a heart attack, company officials told officials told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

He was then rushed to Samsung Medical Center where he underwent a stent placement procedure early Sunday in which tubes were inserted into his body to widen blood vessels to prevent a heart attack.

A Samsung spokesperson said in a statement Sunday that Lee “is in stable condition and making a recovery” after being treated for a heart attack.

Officials from Samsung Medical Center later said Lee’s spontaneous breathing returned shortly after the operation but he will remain on a breathing apparatus while recovering, Yonhap said. Hospital officials told reporters that they “expect good results” due to the swift medical intervention and did not expect any permanent condition such as brain damage. They did not say how long Lee was expected to remain hospitalized.

Lee, the de facto chairman of Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest conglomerate, has a history of medical problems. He has been suffering from respiratory complications since undergoing lung surgery in the late 1990s, and was hospitalized last August for treatment of pneumonia, Yonhap said. He returned to Seoul in April after spending the winter season in the U.S. to prevent respiratory ailments.

Samsung Electronics Co. has a top-heavy command structure that centers on the founding family. Lee Kun-hee is the third son of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul and was tapped in 1979 by his father to lead what would become South Korea’s most valuable company – a global leader in smartphones, TVs, household appliances and home entertainment systems. The conglomerate also has life insurance, hotel, construction, chemical industry, fashion and media businesses.

The company’s business operations are run by three CEOs, though Lee Kun-hee as the head of the flagship electronics division wields significant control over the company’s direction.

Analysts told Yonhap that the Samsung Group has recently been carrying out a broad range of mergers and restructuring in what is believed to be preparations for handing over the reins to Lee’s three children – a son and two daughters.

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