Samsung chief’s unlikely friendship with K-pop legend

Lee Kun-hee

SEOUL - When Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee hosts an event, it is hardly a surprise for big-shot artists to make an appearance; from trot singers to girl groups, Lee's parties never had a shortage of performances by popular singers.

Samsung executives, however, were dumbfounded Monday when Lee went up to singer Cho Yong-pil to thank him for his performance at an event to mark Samsung's 20th anniversary of its "New Management Initiative." It is extremely rare for the often-reserved mogul to show such frank emotions, according to the company officials.

"The two hugged and spoke (after the performance)," a Samsung official told the media. "But as we all know, Cho Yong-pil is not a man of many words. I do not know exactly what they talked about."

The official said that Cho came to participate in the event because of his "personal friendship" with Lee and his wife Hong Ra-hee.

Around 350 executives of Samsung's subsidiaries and partners along with all three of Lee's children -- Jay-yong, Boo-jin and Seo-hyun-- participated in Monday's event. Lee talked about possible future plans for the largest conglomerate in Korea.