Samsung’s Lee Jae Yong Apologizes for MERS Outbreak at Samsung Hospital

D-Bo , June 23, 2015, 9:30 a.m.

Lee Jae-yong, heir apparent to South Korea's top conglomerate Samsung Group, offered an apology Tuesday over a massive outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at a group hospital, pledging support for the quick containment of the viral disease.

Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul has been blamed as a major source of infections and has voluntarily shut down most of its operations after nearly half of all transmissions occurred there.

"I bow my head and sincerely apologize to the nation for the immense suffering and concern that Samsung Medical Center has caused," said Lee, vice president of Samsung Electronics Co., the flagship of the conglomerate.

"Especially, I feel sorry about those who have passed away due to MERS, their bereaved families, the patients and all others who have suffered from the disease. I, myself, feel devastated and fully responsible." Lee vowed to take all measures to support government efforts to bring the disease under control at an early date.

"The hospital will take full responsibility for the treatment of the patients and we will make best efforts to prevent a reoccurrence after a thorough investigation," he said. "Samsung will work closely with the authorities concerned and make all-out efforts to contain the MERS outbreak quickly."

Lee further said Samsung will conduct a complete overhaul of Samsung Medical Center as soon as the MERS outbreak is brought under control. He, however, failed to disclose how the hospital will be reformed.

It is a rare move for the only son of chairman Lee Kun-hee, who has been hospitalized at Samsung Medical Center since May last year after suffering a heart attack, to appear before the press as he is known for his low-key attitude.

It also marks the first time that Samsung Group has made an official apology, taking responsibility for the spread of the potentially deadly virus. Only the presidents of the group affiliates offered an apology last Wednesday.

Lee Jay-yong visited the anti-MERS headquarters located inside the hospital last Thursday to apologize for the failure and discuss countermeasures. As of early Tuesday, South Korea had 175 MERS patients with the death toll standing at 27. Since its outbreak on May 20, over 13,000 people have been subject to quarantine, with more than 2,800 still in isolation for possible infection.

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