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(LEAD) Lee Kun-hee recovers from unconscious state: medical officials

2014/05/25 20:52

SEOUL, May 25 (Yonhap) -- Lee Kun-hee, the de facto head of Samsung Group, has recovered from an unconscious state, medical officials said Sunday, adding that he is becoming more responsive to outside stimulation.

Lee, chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., the group's mainstay unit, was rushed to a hospital near his home in Seoul on May 10 after experiencing difficulty breathing. Lee, 72, was later taken to Samsung Medical Center where he underwent a procedure to widen some of his blood vessels.

"Lee, who was transferred to the ordinary ward on May 19, has recovered from an unconscious state and his response to diverse stimulation is getting better every day," said Samsung Medical Center.

It said that the prognosis for his cognitive functions is "hopeful" considering the extent of his neurological recovery, adding that his heart, lungs and other organs remain in "perfectly" normal shape.

Lee reportedly opened his eyes while some of his family members were watching a baseball game and making noise after Lee Seung-yeop, a slugger for the Samsung Lions, hit a home run. The development was relayed to Samsung Group.

Lee earlier received around 60 hours of hypothermia treatment, a procedure that helps to prevent toxic material from forming in blood vessels by slowing cellular metabolism.

He remained in deep sleep, although his body temperature recovered to normal levels, according to hospital officials.

There had been speculation that Lee's condition was deteriorating, while one local media outlet even reported that he had died. Company and hospital officials dismissed such reports, insisting that his condition was improving.

Lee has a history of health issues, including a bout of lung cancer more than a decade ago. The latest health problem comes as the family-run conglomerate is reportedly pushing to accelerate the transfer of managerial power to his only son, Lee Jay-yong.

Samsung Group has dozens of affiliates under its wing, with its business portfolio ranging from finance and construction to electronics and shipbuilding. The group's sales account for roughly a quarter of the country's gross domestic product.