(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES info in paras 10, 12-14; CHANGES 1st photo)
By Joo Kyung-don
SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Yonhap) -- Key business and political leaders on Monday visited a funeral parlor to offer their condolences to the family of late Samsung Group chief Lee Kun-hee, mourning the death of South Korea's most influential business tycoon.
Lee died Sunday at age 78, more than six years after being hospitalized for a heart attack.
An encoffining ceremony for Lee started around 9 a.m. at the funeral hall of Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul, with his wife and scions, including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, in attendance.
The ceremony was expected to take place in a Won Buddhism style as Lee was a follower of the religion, but Samsung later said it was not held under such a format.
Samsung earlier announced that Lee's funeral service will be held in a modest manner with family members and it courteously decline visits from others due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the country's social distancing scheme, gatherings of more than 50 people are not recommended.
But Samsung decided to accept a small group of those offering their condolences.
President Moon Jae-in delivered his condolences through his chief of staff, Noh Young-min, and Cheong Wa Dae's senior secretary for economic affairs, Lee Ho-seung, on Sunday.
CJ Group Chairman Lee Jae-hyun, a nephew of the late Samsung chief; HDC Group Chairman Chung Mong-gyu; and Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung were also among those who visited to offer their condolences on Sunday.
Samsung's former and current high-ranking officials made visits to the funeral service for the late chairman. They were followed by business moguls here, including Shinsegae Group Chairman Lee Myung-hee, who is also a sister of the late Samsung chief; Hyundai Motor Group chief Chung Euisun; and Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Won-tae.
"It's very sad that a great man has passed away," Chung said to reporters. "I appreciate him for implementing the spirit of the leader across entire fields of the country's business community."
Top government officials, including Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun and Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo, and political heavyweights from the ruling Democratic Party and the main opposition People Power Party also visited the funeral service.
"Lee was a second-generation business leader who really had incredible achievements," the prime minister said. "It was his determination and driving force that made Samsung a global-leading company today."
Foreign ambassadors to the country, including U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris and Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming, and former United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon also offered their condolences. Samsung expects more visits later in the day.
Meanwhile, Samsung employees have set up an online memorial altar to mourn the death of Lee. More than 19,000 condolence messages were posted on the virtual memorial site in the morning.
Samsung said the website shows photos and video clips of Lee's business activities in the past, so that young employees can better know about his business philosophy and achievements.
A funeral procession for Lee is scheduled on Wednesday, with his burial site reportedly to be in Yongin, south of Seoul, where graves of his ancestors are located.
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