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November 14, 2012

Samsung Founder's Memorial Tarnished by Inheritance Spat

There is an old saying that nothing is certain but death and taxes. And for many people, matters of inheritance become extremely important after other matters are taken care of – burial, memorial services, etc. But every once in a while, controversy can rear its ugly head and matters of inheritance and burial can become complicated. Such is the sad state of affairs in the wake of the death of the founder of South Korea’s largest company, Samsung Electronics.

Samsung’s founder, Lee Byung-chull, has passed away, and his descendents are embroiled in a heated dispute over the family fortune, estimated at more than $8.3 billion. The conflict has spilled over out of the boardrooms and courtrooms and threatens disrupt traditional Korean memorial services for the deceased.

Two different branches of the family are planning to hold two different memorial ceremonies this year, as the two sides continue to fight in court and call each other names. For the past 25 years, the family has, in accordance with Confucianist traditions, held a ceremony on November 19th honoring the patriarch of Samsung. This year, though, the organizers intended to force one branch of the family to enter through the back door, a severe violation of tradition.

The inheritance dispute is being fought over shares of Samsung Electronics, which makes the world’s best-selling smartphone, and Samsung Life, which is an insurance company.

The separate ceremonies complicate matters for attendees, who must, in essence, “choose sides,” deciding whether to attend the “official” ceremony or the splinter ceremony. No matter what, the legal battles over the inheritance will continue.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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