Ups-and-downs-of-Daesang-heiress
Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, left, Daesang Senior Vice President Lim Se-yung, center, and actor Lee Jung-jae

Sisters compete for group stewardship

In June 1998, Daesang Group heiress Lim Se-ryung married Samsung Group heir-apparent Lee Jae-yong, the only son of Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

In other words, she tied the knot with the young businessman who would lead the country’s largest business empire. In comparison, Daesang was a mid-tier conglomerate.

She might have been happy to be the wife of someone who was destined to become Korea’s richest man – now he is the country’s second-wealthiest man after only his father.

For the high-profile marriage, she even quit university and traveled to the United States together with Lee, who was going to study at Harvard University.

With a son and a daughter, the couple were believed to be happy.

However, catching the country by complete surprise, Lim suddenly filed for divorce in early 2009. Eventually, both separated by mutual agreement.

Three years later in December 2012, Lim returned to Daesang group as vice president. She is the eldest daughter of Daesang Chairman Lim Chang-wook.

But there is her younger sister, Lim Sang-min, who was tapped as a manager at Daesang just two months before Se-ryung’s appointment.

Rivalry between sisters

Back then, the elder Lim was an executive while her younger sister was a manager; and hence, some expected that she would eventually take charge of the group.

As the sibling rivalry has been rekindled, however, the pendulum has tilted toward the younger Lim.

Topping other things off, Lim Sang-min is the biggest shareholder of Daesang Holdings, the holding company of the group, with a stake of 36.71 percent.

In comparison, Lim Se-ryung holds 20.41 percent of Daesang Holdings.

In 2016, the younger Lim caught up with the elder Lim in the corporate hierarchy as both were promoted to senior vice presidents at the same time.

Later in the year, Daesang Chairman Lim handed over all of his shares in UTC Investment, his own private firm, to the younger Lim.

This prompted many observers to believe that she would succeed her father.

Earlier this year, the UTC Investment decided to channel funds to new projects and the younger Lim was known to have spearheaded the work, which further strengthened the belief that she is the “legitimate” heiress.

Dating another celebrity

The elder Lim might not be able to become chief of Daesang Group; but she is envied by many, not because of her wealth or position, but because of her new companion.

After her divorce, Lim started dating Lee Jung-jae, an award-winning actor and fashion model.

Of note is that Lee became a commercial model for Daesang in late 2009. And in 2012 and 2015, there were reports that the two would marry although they were proven to be wrong.

But in 2015, they admitted to being in a romantic relationship. After that, they were often seen in public – most recently in Hong Kong in late March.

From the perspective of the elder Lim, she married to one of the country’s wealthiest men and is now seeing one of the country’s best-looking ones.

Although both have the same surname of Lee, they are not related. The surname is very common in Korea.

Will she be happy with this, or is she unhappy at losing out in the competition to assume the group leadership to her younger sister? Only she knows the answer.