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Samsung Lee's death marks the end of an era in South Korea

Warm ties between government and business fueled growth, but no more

Lee Kun-hee, the deceased former chairman of Samsung Electronics, center, walks with his family members.

TOKYO -- The death on Sunday of Lee Kun-hee, the chairman of Samsung Electronics who led the South Korean company's push into global markets, symbolizes the end of an era when cozy ties between the Presidential Blue House and large conglomerates, or chaebol, propelled South Korea's rapid economic growth following the Korean War.

In December 2016, when I was on an assignment in Seoul, I witnessed a bizarre sight. The heads of South Korea's major corporate groups -- Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK, LG, Lotte, Hanwha, Hanjin and CJ -- faced a harsh grilling in parliament by members of the country's political opposition.

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