Organizer of fatal bus trip found dead in China city

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Organizer of fatal bus trip found dead in China city

The head of the state-run institute responsible for organizing a Korean government officials’ trip to China, during which a tragic bus crash led to 11 deaths, was found dead outside his hotel on Sunday in the city of Jian in Jilin Province, China.

Choi Doo-yeong, the 55-year-old president of the Local Government Officials’ Development Institute, was found bleeding outside his hotel in Jian at 3:30 a.m. Sunday by a security guard, according to the Korean Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs.

He had been in Jian since Thursday to help handle the aftermath of a bus accident in which a vehicle carrying a group of 24 Korean civil servants from nationwide skidded off a bridge in Jian, at the southern tip of Jilin province, on Wednesday.

The bus flipped over into the river below, killing 10 of the Korean officials and their Chinese driver, and injuring many others.

Choi appears to have jumped from the fourth floor of the Hong Kong City Hotel where he had been lodging.

Footage from China’s state-run CCTV showed that the hotel has no balconies and only tiny windows. The fourth floor window was open.

Choi’s body was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. The authorities have not yet confirmed the cause of death.

Police said they found the beginning of a note written in ballpoint pen on his hotel room desk, but did not say that it was a suicide note.

Korean officials speculated that Choi was under intense stress stemming from a sense of responsibility for the deaths in the tour group, which had been training in his institute’s program.

“Initially, Chinese authorities insisted on cremation, so [Choi] appeared fatigued while he spoke to the bereaved family members,” said one Korean diplomat at the Korean Consulate in Shenyang.

Choi arrived in Jian with a group of Home Affairs Ministry officials on Thursday, a day after the accident, to help oversee repatriation of the remains and perform other tasks stemming from the accident.

“The tasks after the accident were nearly completed, so it is unclear why this happened,” an official from the Korean Home Affairs Ministry said. “We have not been able to confirm if Choi was depressed or if there were other personal circumstances that played a role.”

Forensic officials said that there were no indications of homicide.

Choi was appointed in January as the head of the Local Government Officials’ Development Institute, which is affiliated with the Home Affairs Ministry. He passed the civil service examination in 1983.

As part of a leadership training program organized by the institute, a group of 148 officials from provinces and cities across Korea had been participating in the five-day trip to China.

The bodies of the 10 government officials are tentatively scheduled to arrive at Incheon International Airport today.

BY SARAH KIM, CHOI HYUNG-KYU [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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