Court grants divorce to Samsung heiress

January 14, 2016

By Lee Kyung-min

A court allowed Lee Boo-jin, the eldest daughter of Samsung Group’s owner family, to divorce her husband Im Woo-jae, ending their 17-year marriage Thursday.

Lee Boo-jin, left, and  Im Woo-jae

Lee Boo-jin, left, and Im Woo-jae

The Seongnam branch of the Suwon District Court accepted the divorce claim by Lee, 46, who is also CEO of Hotel Shilla, giving her parental rights and custody of the couple’s elementary-school-aged son.

Im, 48, was given the right to visit his son once a month. Im’s lawyer said he would appeal.

“It is not normal that Lee took both the parental right and the custody as it was Im who hoped to keep the family together,” the lawyer said.

Both sides said there was no discussion of how to divide their property, as neither Lee nor Im raised the issue.

The reason for divorce has not been made public, but sources close to the family said the two have had disagreements due to personality differences.

Some sources indicated that Im, who has a more modest family background, failed to assimilate to the culture of the chaebol family.

Lee filed for divorce in October 2014. The official divorce proceedings started February 2015 after the two sides failed to reach an agreement through mediation. Im kept saying that he could not accept Lee’s divorce request, claiming he wished to protect the family.

The couple met in 1995 during a company-organized volunteer work program, and married in August 1999, drawing much public attention and being dubbed “the male version of the Cinderella story.”

Im had been a rank-and-file employee at one of the conglomerate’s affiliates.

Following the marriage, Im earned a master’s degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and worked for the conglomerate’s overseas branches in Japan and the United States.

Upon returning to Korea in 2005, he was appointed to a senior position at Samsung Electro-Mechanics, an equipment-making arm, at which he served as a vice chairman from 2011 to 2015. He stepped down from the post last month. Currently he is a company adviser.

Unlike her two siblings, both of whom married high-profile figures, Lee married Im despite her parents’ opposition.

Lee’s younger sister Lee Seo-hyun, president of Samsung C&T’s fashion division, married Kim Jae-yeol, son of the former chairman of the Korean daily Dong-A Ilbo. Kim served as president of Samsung Engineering from 2011 to 2014.

Lee’s older brother, the group’s heir apparent Lee Jae-yong, married Lim Se-ryeong, managing director of the Daesang Group and the eldest daughter of the group’s chairman. The couple divorced in 2009.