- Samsung’s Lee Family has found a way to pare down their massive $10.78 billion inheritance tax bill.
- The Lees are unloading a treasure trove of 23,000 art pieces, including Picassos and Dalis.
- The art, worth some $1.8 billion, will be donated to South Korean national museums.
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The family of late Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun Hee is donating a treasure trove of around 23,000 art pieces to South Korean museums, to shave a healthy sum off the massive tax bill they need to pay off within five years.
The art collection includes pieces from Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and will go to several national museums in the country.
According to the Guardian, the family’s collection includes masterpieces by Korean artists Park Soo-keun, Lee Jung-seop, and Kim Whan-ki, and valuable collector’s items.
Yonhap News reported that the art collection has been valued at around 2 trillion won (or $1.8 billion).
“The late Chairman Lee’s collection of antiques, Western paintings, and works by Korean artists — approximately 23,000 pieces in total — will be donated to national organizations in recognition of his passion for collecting and his belief in the importance of passing on our cultural heritage to new generations,” the conglomerate said in a statement seen by Yonhap.
Yonhap News wrote that the art collection also contains cultural artifacts from the Goryeo (918-1392) and Joseon (1392-1910) dynasties. This includes the Joseon-era landscape painting “Inwangjesaekdo” by Korean painter Jeong Seon, a piece that was designated as a national treasure in 1984.
Inwangjesaekdo (“Clearing After Rain in Mt. Inwangsan” or “After Rain at Mt. Inwang”) is a painting by famous Korean landscape artist Jeong Seon.
Gongu/Ho-Am Museum, Yongin
Art website ARTnews reported that two Korean museums are likely to benefit from the donation. More than 20,000 pieces will go the Seoul’s National Museum of Korea, and some 1,200 pieces will be donated to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. The MMCA told ARTnews that it would be organizing an exhibition highlighting the gift collection, titled “Masterpieces of Lee Kun-hee’s Collection,” with possible tours to museums around South Korea and even internationally.
The Lees were slapped with a $12 trillion won (around $10.87 billion) tax bill, a record amount in South Korea — as the country has a 50% inheritance tax rate. According to the BBC, this percentage is the world’s second-highest, after Japan, which pegs its inheritance tax at 55%.
Nikkei Asia reported that Lee’s wife and three children said they were happy to pay the tax bill in a rare public statement.
“It is our civic duty and responsibility to pay all taxes,” they said, noting that “the inheritance tax payment is one of the largest ever in Korea and globally.” The family did not mention how the patriarch’s stock holdings would be divvied up, and whether any part of it would be sold.
The patriarch’s heirs being made to pay such a massive tax bill is no surprise, as Lee Kun Hee held the title of South Korea’s richest man for 12 years.
The Samsung family is South Korea’s largest chaebol, or family-run conglomerate, and Lee’s death in October last year at the age of 78 cast some uncertainty over how the family would pay the bill, and whether it would affect the family’s long-standing influence or dilute their stake in the company.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Lee clan also intends to donate more than $900 million to their philanthropic efforts — which will go to building medical facilities in South Korea and helping children with cancer and rare diseases. The Lees will also not be taxed for this donation.
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