SEOUL, South Korea—A former baseball standout and one-time head of the Korea Professional Baseball Player Association has shocked the country with his involvement in a quadruple murder-suicide.
Police said that Lee Ho-seong killed a 46-year-old woman identified as Kim Yeon-suk as well as her three daughters and buried them in a pit in a cemetery south of Seoul. Investigators believe Lee then committed suicide by jumping into the Han River, where his body was discovered on March 10. The woman and her children had been missing since Feb. 21, prompting a nationwide search, and their bodies were discovered March 11.
The crime has left many in Korea to wonder what would drive a well liked and popular star to do such a thing. Lee was one of Korea’s most glamorous baseball players and spent his entire pro career with the former Haitai (now Kia) Tigers, which ruled Korean pro baseball in the 1990s. After retiring in 2001, Lee had several businesses that eventually failed, and the constant failures put him into financial hardship.
According to Korean media reports, Lee met Kim, a single mother with three teenage daughters, and they planned to get married. Lee borrowed money from her, and Kim eventually demanded the money to be repaid. Authorities said he may have owed her the equivalent of $250,000.
Lee was unable to pay the money back, and police speculated that this was the catalyst that set Lee off. Other details about the case were still sketchy because there was no suicide note, but Lee was seen on security video removing four large black duffel bags from the woman’s apartment late one evening. He was also put at the scene by a witness who saw Lee in the parking lot about the time the four women went missing.
Police eventually released Lee’s name and offered a reward for information on his whereabouts. The next day, he became front-page news, and investigators believe about 3 a.m. the following morning, Lee jumped off a bridge into the Han River which runs through Seoul.
Police confirmed Lee’s identity through his fingerprints and found the bodies of the four women soon after his death in a cemetery in Lee’s hometown of Kwangju. A break in the case came when cemetery employees came forward saying Lee had asked them to dig a large pit next to his father’s grave, so that he could build a memorial.
Lee helped his team to four Korea Series titles in the 1990s during his 12-year career. He debuted in 1990, batting .304 to rank seventh in the Korea Baseball Organization. He batted .272 with 102 home runs for his career, and won two Gold Gloves as an outfielder as well. Lee was team captain in 1999 and 2000 and became president of the league’s players union in 2001.