SEOUL, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Lotte Group founder Shin Kyuk-ho has died at age 98, the last first-generation tycoon of South Korea's family-run conglomerates.
South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate said in a statement that its honorary chairman died of a chronic disease about 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Asan Medical Center in Seoul.
Born in Ulsan, South Korea, in 1921, Shin moved to Japan alone in 1941 when Korea was under colonial rule.
Shin started his business in 1944 there but his factories burned down during World War II. Then the young entrepreneur launched Lotte in 1948 to churn out soaps, cosmetics, food and beverages.
After Seoul and Tokyo resumed diplomatic relations in 1965, Shin tapped into his home country in the late 1960s.
Shin expanded the business horizon of Lotte to such areas as tourism, retail, petrochemicals and construction. He eventually grew the business into South Korea's No. 5 conglomerate, competing with the likes of Samsung, Hyundai and LG.
In 1995, the Seoul administration recognized his contributions to the tourism industry by awarding him the Gold Tower Order of Industrial Service Merit, the first in the tourism industry.
His later years were plagued by family feuds involving his two sons, who staged legal battles and proxy wars to take control of the business empire.
The high-profile sibling fights took place after Shin left the management while suffering from various diseases, including dementia.
In late 2017, he was sentenced to four years in prison and fined about $3 million on charges of embezzlement and breach of trust. But he was not imprisoned due to deteriorating health conditions.
Besides his sons, Shin is survived by his wife and a daughter. He also maintained a common-law marriage with a former beauty pageant winner with whom he had another daughter.