Samsung Welfare Foundation chief Lee Seo-hyun headed the fashion division of Samsung C&T. Her capability as chief executive got mixed evaluation. But she has lived a happy married life compared to his brother and sister, who got divorced, respectively. Photo courtesy of Samsung Group

This is the second of a series highlighting businesswomen related to South Korea’s sprawling business conglomerates, called chaebol. _ ED.

Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee has a son _ Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong _ and two daughters _ Hotel Shilla CEO Lee Boo-jin and Lee Seo-hyun.

Lee Seo-hyun is presently heading the Samsung Welfare Foundation, a charity founded in 1989 by bedridden Chairman Lee, who collapsed in 2014 due to a heart attack.

After graduating from Seoul Arts High School, Lee Seo-hyun crossed the Pacific in the late 1990s to study at Parsons School of Design in the United States.

Lee Seo-hyun joined Cheil Industries, the top apparel and textile company in Korea, in 2002 to work for the Samsung affiliate for longer than 15 years. Cheil Industries later merged with Samsung C&T.

While taking charge of the firm’s fashion division, Lee launched SPA brand 8seconds and also spearheaded the introduction of Italy’s 10 Corso Como, a top-tier concept store.

But 8seconds received mixed evaluation _ it got off to a solid start in 2012, but failed to take firm root in the highly competitive apparel market of the country. Now, the brand’s presence is hardly felt.

In 2018, Lee departed Samsung C&T, formerly Cheil Industries, and got aboard Samsung Welfare Foundation, which works on the group’s philanthropic projects.

Although Lee left the management, she is one of the richest businesswomen of the country with a wealth of $1.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Happy marriage

Lee tied the knot with Kim Jae-yeol, brother of Dong-A Ilbo Publisher Kim Jae-ho, in 2000. He is now president of Cheil Worldwide.

And it seems that Lee has lived a happy married life, at least happier than her sibling. The couple has a total of four children _ three daughters and one son.

In comparison, her brother _ Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong _ and sister _ Hotel Shilla CEO Lee Boo-jin _ got divorced, respectively.


Little is known about Lee’s personal life. But a book written by Kim Yong-chul, the former leader of Samsung Group’s legal department and whistle-blower over the group’s malpractices, gave a glimpse into the billionaire’s life.

Kim said in the 2010 book, titled “Thinking about Samsung,” that Lee Seo-hyun once asked, “who would purchase a dress priced 1 million won ($830)?”

What the Samsung heiress meant was that the $830 dress is way to cheap for people to bother to buy, not vice versa, according to lawyer Kim.

The author also recollected that Lee’s husband Kim Jae-yeol begged him to play golf, hinting that the presence of Chairman Lee’s son-in-law was not great inside the group.

Although the book was a bestseller, few media outlets covered it with Samsung questioning its credibility.

Lee Seo-hyun information in detail

Date of birth: Sept. 20, 1973

Educational background: Parsons School of Design

Wealth: $1.5 billion (Forbes)


-Joined Cheil Industries in 2002

-Took charge of the fashion division of Cheil Industries (Samsung C&T) in 2015

-Became chief of Samsung Welfare Foundation in 2018