Daughter In Law to CJ Group Chairman Dies in US

Michael Song, Nov. 6, 2016, 11:31 a.m.

Korea’s leading food and entertainment conglomerate CJ Group has been hit hard by a series of misfortunes recently, further devastated by the death of 22-year-old Lee Rae-na, a daughter-in-law of ailing group chairman Lee Jay-hyun, over the weekend.

Lee Rae-na, the wife of Chairman Lee’s eldest son Lee Sun-ho, died at her home in New Haven, Connecticut on Nov. 4 at around 3 a.m., local time, Yale Daily News reported Friday. The couple married last April and they have been residing in the US for Lee to complete her studies at Yale University. “We are in the process of identifying the exact cause of her death. Details on the funeral have not yet been confirmed,” a group official said.

The news came two days after the group saw its value plunge by 8.77 percent, the lowest in 52 weeks, following reports of the group’s alleged links to Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of President Park Geun-hye currently under arrest as an accessory to abuse of power and attempted fraud.

CJ Group is suspected to have received benefits in return for participating in cultural businesses designed by Choi and her aide Cha Eun-taek, a TV commercial director suspected to be behind the setup of the controversial Mir and K-Sports foundations. According to news reports, CJ Group has been executing an investment plan involving more than 1 trillion won ($869.67 million) in the “creative culture convergence belt” led by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Although CJ Group denied all speculations of any illicit dealings, the stock market was quick to react.  The market capitalization of CJ Group’s nine listed companies also plummeted 20.14 percent to 20.5 trillion won ($17.9 billion) as of last Thursday, from 25.7 trillion won in 2015, financial research firm FN Guide said, adding that it posted the worst performance among Korea’s 15 major conglomerates.

Meanwhile, local broadcaster MBN reported that in 2013, Cheong Wa Dae pressured then-group Chairwoman Lee Mie-Kyung, Lee Jay-hyun’s elder sister, to step down.  There are speculations that the government held Lee Mie-Kyung accountable for airing parodies of President Park during her campaign on tVN, a cable channel run by the group’s entertainment arm CJ E&M. The former chairwoman stepped down from her post in late 2014 citing health problems, and flew to the US to undergo treatment for Charcot Marie Tooth disease.

CMT is a rare inherited neurological disorder that Lee Mie-Kyung and the incumbent chairman Lee Jay-hyun are suffering from. Lee Jay-hyun was indicted on charges of embezzlement and tax evasion last year but was pardoned due to his health condition in August. 

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