PERSONALITY: South Korea's $500 Million Man

Like the name of Rockefeller in the U.S., that of Byung Chull Lee means wealth in South Korea. Now 66, Lee has amassed his nation's largest personal fortune—some $500 million, or enough to put him in the same league with Karim Aga Khan, Nelson Bunker Hunt and Christina Onassis. He made every penny of it himself, building such a profitable group of diverse companies that Korean businessmen say he has a "golden touch." They also view him with fear: Lee does not gladly suffer critics or competitors.

Only his habit of chain smoking suggests the fierceness within. Outwardly, "B.C." is mild-mannered...

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