Korea’s Wealthy Troublemakers (2)-CJ Group Lee Sun-ho: Lee Sun-ho was imprisoned last September after caught smuggling illegal drugs. He was released the next month on a suspended jail term. On the right is his father, CJ Group Chairman Lee Jae-hyun. Photo courtesy of CJ Group

CJ Group heir apparent imprisoned in 2019 due to drug smuggling

This is the second of a series, which highlights Korea’s wealthy businesspeople who caused troubles related to drugs, alcohol, and power harassment called “gapjil” here. _ ED.

Born in 1990, Lee Sun-ho joined CJ Group in 2013. As the only son of CJ Group Chairman Lee Jae-hyun, he was regarded as heir apparent of the food and entertainment conglomerate.

And during the next seven years, the Columbia University graduate grabbed headlines a few times, mostly not because of his business achievements but because of his private life.

In April 2016, Lee Sun-ho got married to Lee Rae-na, a daughter of Lee Yong-kyu, a member of the Koreana band. It sang the official song of the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games.

In just seven months, the 20-year-old daughter-in-law of CJ Chairman Lee was found dead in their New Haven home, Connecticut. Back then, she was in the United States to study at Yale while Lee Sun-ho was majoring in finance at Columbia.

A Korean-language media outlet in the U.S. reported that she committed suicide by jumping from the sixth floor, but the precise cause of her death was not confirmed.

In October 2018, or two years after the mysterious death of his first wife, Lee Sun-ho tied the knot with Lee Da-hee, a cable TV announcer who studied at Purdue University.

Last September, Lee Sun-ho surprised the nation because he was caught smuggling liquid marijuana cartridges at Incheon International Airport in Korea.

During a routine search of inbound passengers from the U.S., customs authorities also discovered cannabis products made in the form of candy and jelly.

In addition, Lee Sun-ho’s urine sample tested positive for the illegal substance.

Marijuana is banned here as a harmful and addictive substance. Hence, smoking or consuming marijuana is subject to less than five years in prison.

The prosecution instantly booked him without detention, but amid strong criticisms over lenient measures on tycoons or their heirs, he was arrested and imprisoned in a few days.

Eventually, Lee Sun-ho was released the next month as a Seoul district court handed down him a suspended three-year jail term. The higher court also upheld the verdict early this year.

Then, CJ suspended him from duty in late February.

But few seem to suspect that Lee Sun-ho will take the helm at CJ Group in the future, as amply demonstrated by Chairman Lee Jae-hyun’s recent move.

Chairman Lee handed over 5.2 percent of CJ shares to Lee Sun-ho late last year. Chairman Lee’s daughter Lee Kyeong-hoo, who also works for CJ Group, received 3.8 percent.

As the fourth-generation scion, Lee Sun-ho is great-grandson of Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chul.