Thursday, April 6, 2006

Extradition now

UPDATE (September 18, 2010):
Hyundai settled with the Cook family.

UPDATE (January 30, 2009)
The Los Angeles Times reports that 41-year-old Lee Youn-bum is being extradited to California from Seoul for causing the death of Cook and then fleeing the country to escape charges. He is to be escorted today by US Marshals to face felony charges in Orange County. (hat tip to Wangkon936)

UPDATE (May 23, 2007)
It was reported today that authorities in California have issued an arrest warrant for Hyundai executive Lee Youn Bum, who is apparently now in South Korea with his family. Last month, Orange County prosecutors charged Lee in absentia with three felonies in the Ryan Dallas Cook's death: gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated; driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs with injuray; and hit-and-run with injury or death.

Furthermore, Cook's relatives, perhaps taking my advice, plan to file a wrongful-death lawsuit today against Hyundai America and several employees (including Lee) for what they consider to have been a cover-up and attempts to thwart the investigation.

More power to them.

After following KNBC's link to the original story, I realized that the accident did not occur in Los Angeles, as the recent KNBC link suggests and as The Marmot wrote. Rather, it occurred some fifty miles away in Orange County, not far from my alma mater UCI on a stretch of highway I have driven over hundreds of times.

The accident occurred along the Costa Mesa Freeway (California Highway 55), southbound north of MacArthur Boulevard, close to Orange County Airport and South Coast Plaza. This is, even without any traffic, a good hour from LAX.

This makes a difference to me because, when I thought the accident had occurred in Los Angeles, I could see (though certainly not excuse) someone flying out in a panic, but that long drive from Orange County out to LAX adds lends more time for the perpetrator and his aider(s) and abettor(s) of crime to think about this. In other words, this makes it even more atrocious.

In hindsight, it makes more sense that this would have occurred in Orange County, since Hyundai America's headquarters are there, not Los Angeles, and there are plenty of drinking establishments in Garden Grove, where OC's well-established but unofficial Koreatown is located.

ORIGINAL POST (April 2006):
The Marmot has
written up a post about a Hyundai employee who, last October, drank himself into a stupor while in Los Angeles, drove his car onto the freeway, apparently started heading toward the center divider at a 45-degree angle, and slowed or stopped there—late at night with no lights on—long enough for a motorcyclist who didn't see the black-colored vehicle to crash into it. According to local news, the motorcylist fell onto the roadway and was run over by three other vehicles, and the driver of the dark-color Hyundai SUV continued south. The motorcyclist, or course, was killed in the process. An Orange County Register report says that the Hyundai SUV involved in the accident "fled the scene" and was found later.

At left is a picture of the victim, a musician named Ryan Dallas Cook who was part of a ska revivalist band called "Surburban Legend." He was twenty-three years old when he died.

The Hyundai employee then, apparently with the help of some other employee(s) of Hyundai America, fled to South Korea. It is in the news right now because the victim's family only recently discovered the person's identiy.

The identity is clear from the
local NBC affiliate station's piece The Marmot linked to, but The Marmot did the Korean journalist thing and only included the alleged perpetrator's family name, Lee.

Well, since I'm a Californian, I read about this in a California news site, the crime was committed in California, and since I'm thoroughly disgusted that someone would drink eight shots of soju and then drive, and THEN his colleague(s) would help him evade responsibility for the death of a person, I will include his name.

He is Lee Youn Bum (이연범). I don't know if this is the same person, but there is an 이연범 who apparently is/was the 과장 for the 총괄인사팀. This is a matter of public record easily obtainable from a simple Google search. Maybe someone can email him at and see if he knows anything about this (there very well could be several 이연범-named people at Hyundai, so it wouldn't be prudent to jump the gun about this).

I'm going to contact some of my barrister relations in California to see if they could help the family of this victim find justice. The appropriate Mr. Lee of Hyundai should be extradited (vehicular manslaughter, felony hit-and-run, and driving under the influence, all pending charges against him, are jailable offenses on both sides of the Pacific) and brought to justice.

As someone mentioned at Marmot's Hole, maybe threatening to sue Hyundai America might get the ball rolling. Besides using a lawsuit as leverage, Hyundai America deserves to be sued if its drinking culture led to this incident. Come on, EIGHT shots of soju and then getting in a car? Whiskey, tango, fuck!

While we're at it, let's sue Seoul-Oak Restaurant, which let the guy get into a car after serving him the soju. Surely they bear some legal responsibility.

It is abominable that the drinking culture in Korea—already
a hazard to lives in the ROK—is being brought over to the streets of North America (or other places). I have no sympathy for drunk drivers, none at all. I have been hit twice by drunk drivers in Seoul, while driving of course. In at least one case, had the guy not hit my car, it's very likely he would have hit a pedestrian, quite possibly a child.

A KoKo friend of mine worked as a CPA for a major American firm in Los Angeles that happened to hire a lot of Korean CPAs (those on H-1 visas supposedly worked harder and cheaper than people with green cards or citizenship). Every now and then they would go out drinking, and they would engage in the drink-until-you can't-see-straight behavior common in Korean colleges and corporations.

Well, one other woman began to pass out while they were all at a noraebang in L.A. Koreatown. My friend noticed what seemed like shallow breathing, but she wasn't sure. She asked some of her sŏnbae ('senior') if the passed-out hubae ('junior') seemed all right. She actually got barked at that she was ruining the punwigi (mood/atmosphere) of the party. After a couple minutes, still nagged by concern for the passed-out friend, she decided to call 911.

According to my accountant friend, the call saved the woman's life. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and her stomach was pumped. The E/R doctor told them that if they had waited another twenty minutes, the friend might have died of alcohol poisoning. Her blood alcohol level was stratospheric, having downed all these "one-shot" drinks, egged on (without any real choice without being ostracized) by her supposed friends.

It's tragic that so many people in Korea really can't feel like they're having a good time unless they're shit-faced. Okay, fine, some people have to go and drink, but when it adversely affects others, it goes beyond being a personal choice. And when people who wish to abstain or just have that one beer or only one shot are brow-beaten and coerced into drinking more and more and more, then it borders on being criminal.

Find Mr. Lee. Extradite him now. Teach corporate Korea a lesson that deadly drunken behavior will be dealt with harshly. In Korea, inebriation may be a get-out-of-jail card, but in California it sure as hell is not.


  1. Did you run a search for that name?

    Well now I did. I didn't get anything definitive. The guy I found seems much more likely, though I do warn he could be an innocent bystander.

    And so, Javere, you see it's true:
    That man bears no more guilt than you.
    Who am I? I'm Jean Valjean!

  2. Didn't Korea and the US finally sign an extradition treaty? If so, what's the holdup?


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