The Associated Press August 18, 2010, 1:16AM ET

Samsung Electronics chairman's nephew found dead

A nephew of Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee was found dead Wednesday morning near the parking lot of his apartment in central Seoul, police said.

A security guard found Lee Jae-chan's body in front of the building after hearing a thud, an official at Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said Wednesday.

Police have not found a suicide note but they suspect Lee leapt to his death, the official added. She did not give her name because she was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Lee Jae-chan's father Lee Chang-hee is the second son of Lee Byung-chull, founder of the Samsung Group conglomerate and older brother of Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee.

Lee Chang-hee, 46, was the former president of magnetic tape supplier Saehan Media, which was sold in 2000 after suffering from financial problems.

An official at Saehan Media, who identified himself only as Jeon due to the sensitivity of the issue, said Lee Jae-chan was never involved in managing Saehan.

Samsung Group said it had no comment on news of Lee Jae-chan's death, citing it as a private family matter.

South Korea, a nation of 49 million people, has the highest rate of suicide among nations belonging to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, a grouping of 30 industrialized nations.

Former President Roh Moo-hyun jumped off a cliff to his death in May 2009. At the time, he and his family were being investigated on suspicion of taking $6 million from a businessman while Roh was president.

Last year, top South Korean actress Choi Jin-sil committed suicide, weeks after a fellow actor killed himself. Choi's brother hanged himself earlier this year.

In 2005, chairman Lee Kun-hee's youngest daughter also committed suicide in her apartment in New York, where she was studying arts management as a graduate student at New York University.

The Samsung conglomerate is South Korea's largest industrial group. It consists of dozens of companies in electronics and finance, and also has interests in shipbuilding, construction, fashion, leisure and other businesses.

Samsung Electronics -- the world's largest maker of memory chips for computers and other electronic gadgets -- is the group's flagship business and its 68-year-old chairman was ranked by Forbes Asia last year as South Korea's richest person with a $7.9 billion fortune.


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