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Founder of Singapore released from hospital

By Liz Neisloss and Holly Yan, CNN
updated 8:03 PM EST, Sun February 17, 2013
Former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is photographed in Tokyo on May 24, 2012.
Former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is photographed in Tokyo on May 24, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is resting at home, his son's office says
  • Lee was treated for an irregular heartbeat and "stroke-like symptoms"
  • He molded Singapore into a major financial hub
  • His son is the country's third prime minister

Singapore (CNN) -- Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore and the man widely credited with molding the island nation into one of the world's most prosperous countries, has been released from the hospital, where he was treated for an irregular heartbeat and "stroke-like symptoms."

The 89-year-old Lee was resting at home, according to a statement from the office of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Commonly referred to by his initials, LKY, the elder Lee was Singapore's first prime minister after it gained independence from Malaysia in 1965. His son is the third.

Lee was admitted to Singapore General Hospital on Saturday after experiencing a suspected transient ischaemic attack, or a brief disruption of blood flow to a part of the brain, the statement said.

A person generally has stroke-like symptoms during a TIA, but unlike a stroke, it may last only a few minutes and usually clears in less than 24 hours.

A businessman at the time, Lee took over the helm of the swampy seaport of Singapore in 1959 and governed through the race riots of the 1960s.

Transforming Singapore

He molded Singapore into a major transport and financial services hub, with its port becoming one of the busiest around the globe.

But he also created a Singapore bound by stringent laws and regulations that dictated most, if not all, aspects of society -- including media and political freedoms, censorship and even the selling of chewing gum.

He voluntarily stepped down in 1990, the first Southeast Asian strongman to do so, and turned power over to Goh Chok Tong.

Goh ran a "kinder, gentler Singapore" and helped dilute the perceptions of a Lee family dynasty.

After 14 years in power -- steering Singapore through the 1997 financial crisis and the SARS outbreak, and reaching out to his neighbors and to the West -- 63-year-old Goh turned the office over to Lee's son in 2004.

Enduring legacy

Even after his departure from office, the elder Lee retained his influence around the world.

"This is one of the legendary figures of Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries," U.S. President Barack Obama said during a meeting with Lee at the White House in October 2009.

"He is somebody who helped to trigger the Asian economic miracle."

The next year, Time magazine listed Lee as one of the 100 people who most affected our world.

"The mark of a great leader is to take his society from where it is to where it has never been," wrote former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the magazine's entry for Lee. "There is no better strategic thinker in the world today."

CNN's Liz Neisloss reported from Singapore and Holly Yan wrote from Atlanta.

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