SEOUL Nov 14 A feud at South Korea's giant
Samsung Group over the family fortune has spilled from the
courts into an ancestral rite to commemorate the group's
deceased founder, a traditional Korean ceremony where family
attendance is mandatory.
Descendants of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chull, including
Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee, are
holding separate memorial services for the first time in 25
years, South Korea's CJ Group said on Wednesday.
The two branches of the Lee family, South Korea's richest
business dynasty, are engaged in a bitter legal battle over
billions of dollars worth of shares in Samsung group companies
and traded barbs.
Lee Kun-hee was worth an estimated $8.3 billion, according
to Forbes Magazine, as of March 2012.
Kun-hee's brother, Lee Maeng-hee has dubbed his sibling
"greedy" and "childish", while Lee Kun-hee has shot back saying
that his accuser was "kicked" out of the family and that he had
not observed the family rites.
CJ Group said in a statement that the Samsung Hoam
Foundation, which oversees the yearly event, informed CJ
Chairman Lee Jay-hyun's secretary that he and his immediate
family "will not be able to use the front door" to the burial
site when going to pay their respects.
"Samsung's notification to 'come and go by the back door' is
tantamount to blocking the normal ancestral rites of other
siblings and their descendants," CJ Group said in a statement.
CJ Group Chairman Lee Jay-hyun is the son of Maeng-hee who
is suing over the ownership of shares in Samsung Electronics,
which makes the world's best selling smartphone, and Samsung
Life, an insurance company at the heart of the
sprawling Samsung Group business empire.
The Lee family usually gathers at the Nov. 19 ceremony, a
tradition from Korea's Confucianist roots that extols the virtue
of honoring one's ancestors.
South Koreans traditionally gather to offer
specially-prepared food and to bow before the ancestor's burial
mound on these anniversary days.
Samsung Group in a statement said that the feuding family
groups would be holding separate memorial services, but said the
path it had asked to be used was the one used every year by
Samsung Group leaders coming to pay their respects.
South Korea is no stranger to the kind of family feuds that
have engulfed other Asian dynasties such as India's Ambani
Hyundai Group, once the biggest of the chaebol, or
conglomerates, that dominate South Korea's economy, split into
two after a row between two brothers, one side becoming Hyundai
Motor Co and the other Hyundai Group.
Samsung Group itself may be on the verge of sensitive
transition as Lee Kun-hee prepares his son, Jay Lee, to take
over the leadership.
($1 = 1089.9400 Korean won)
(Editing by David Chance and Jonathan Thatcher)