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Samsung chairman quits in corruption scandal

Dynasty beheaded

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The disgraced chairman of Samsung quit the firm today in a bid to save its reputation, after he and nine other senior executives were indicted on tax dodging charges.

Lee Kun-Hee, until recently reckoned one of South Korea's most respected and powerful men, said his 20-year reign over the electronics conglomerate had come to an end.

Lee told a press conference: "Today, I have decided to step down from the Samsung group chairmanship. I offer my apology from the bottom of my heart for causing concerns for the people. I am going to take full responsibility, both moral and legal."

Lee's son and presumed successor Lee Jae Yong also left his executive position. He'll now be spend time working for Samsung overseas, "building up his market experiences".

The South Korean parliament authorised an investigation of Samsung when the whistle was blown on corrupt practices by its former chief counsel. Authorities announced last week that their three month investigation of a multibillion-dollar secret slush fund would lead to prosecutions, but stopped short of arresting Lee and his lieutenants.

The 66-year-old took over in 1987 after the death of his father, who founded the firm, when it was known for producing knock-offs of Japanese gear.

It's not expected that the Lee family will lose control of Samsung, but according to the New York Times, few in South Korea had expected resignations. Samsung said the clear out would allow it to restructure and avoid future scandal. ®

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