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Lee Joon, 81, convicted in Sampoong deaths

Oct 06,2003
Lee Joon, the former chairman of Sampoong Department Store, died Saturday at the age of 81.
Mr. Lee spent seven and a half years in prison after he was found guilty of negligent homicide after Sampoong’s Seoul store collapsed in June 1995. Mr. Lee ordered illegal design changes, which led to shoddy construction of the building.
He was hospitalized shortly after his release from prison in April for complications attributed to diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.
Sampoong Department Store was an upscale nine-floor shopping center in Seocho-dong in southern Seoul. The building consisted of five floors above ground and four basement levels. The building collapsed, killing 502 shoppers and employees and injuring 937 more.
Born in Yangju, Gyeonggi province, Mr. Lee was once a career military officer and worked at a predecessor of the National Intelligence Service.
In 1963, he founded Donggyeong Industry, which mostly did construction work for the U.S. military and for public utilities.
In 1967, he changed the name of the company to Sampoong Construction, and entered the construction business in earnest.
Capitalizing on the network that he built during his time in the military and at the intelligence agency, he won large scale construction projects, including the Sampoong Building in Seoul’s Euljiro district and Yeoido Full Gospel Church in Yeouido.
In the 1970s, he turned to real estate investment, again using his connections to accumulate massive wealth.
For the families of the victims of the disaster, the company completed paying 376 billion won ($330 million) in damages in early September.
On the site where the building once stood, a dual-purpose commercial-residential building has been under construction since December 2000.
Mr. Lee’s second son, Lee Han-sang, 50, who was president of Sampoong at the time of the collapse, finished his prison term of seven years in October of last year and is working as an evangelist in Mongolia.


by Park Hye-min


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