Korean Expat Fingered in Rumor of Samsung Chief's Death

  • By Joo Hyung-sik

    August 26, 2016 13:18

    A Korean expatriate in the U.S. has been fingered as the source of a rumor that Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee is dead, which sent the Korean stock market into a panic in late June.

    The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said on Thursday that it has placed the man, identified by his surname Choi (30), on its wanted list.

    Choi is accused of posting messages on a far-right online community site on June 29, claiming the Samsung patriarch died that morning. The post was deleted after just 10 minutes, but that was enough to make it go viral on social media.

    Stock markets are prone to magical thinking, and though Lee has been in a coma since last year and the conglomerate is run by his son, the message sent Samsung Group shares into a tailspin.

    Byun Min-sun at the Seoul police agency said, "Overnight a rumor posted on the Internet spread throughout the country."

    In phone and e-mail interviews with police, Choi said he merely wanted to get attention. But police believe he tried to profit from Samsung share fluctuations since he also posted messages showing changes in the conglomerate's share prices and volume.

    Police are also investigating the possible role of other market manipulators seeking to make a quick buck.

    Choi left Korea in 2000 and lives in the U.S., repeatedly putting off his mandatory military service. He juggles part-time jobs, including bagging groceries in supermarkets, according to police. He was initially willing to cooperate with police but broke contact late last month after being told to return to Korea for questioning. 

    Police are considering seeking the help of Interpol to arrest him.

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