Lee Ho Seong was a famous South Korean baseball player who played for the Haitai Tigers (now known as the Kia Tigers) for twelve years (1990-2001).
During his baseball career, Lee Ho Seong batted an above-average .272 and recorded 102 home runs. He became captain of the Haitai Tigers in 1999 and 2000 and was president of the league’s player union in 2001. The Haitai Tigers won the Korean Series championships in 1991, 1993, 1996, and 1997 with Lee Ho Seong.
After retiring from his successful baseball career, Lee Ho Seong pursued business ventures such as a wedding business in Gwangju that, after a period of success, went bankrupt in 2003.
After the bankruptcy, police arrested Lee Ho Seong for investment fraud with his attempts at working in real estate, and he was released on bail after two months. The arrest instigated the separation of Lee Ho Seong from his wife and son.
The former baseball player’s next business venture was a virtual horse racing arcade, likely inspired by the athlete’s frequent visits to race tracks. This business venture was also a failure, given protests in South Korea about gambling at the time, and several investors even sued Lee Ho Seong, claiming he had scammed them. Consequently, Lee Ho Seong ended up in tremendous debt.
In 2006, Lee Ho Seong met the owner of a sushi restaurant, Kim Yeon Suk, who had a husband and three daughters. Police would later believe that Lee Ho Seong and Kim Yeon Suk were in a relationship, with the baseball player having not only a good relationship with Kim Yeon Suk but with her daughters as well.
Two years later, in 2008, Kim Yeon Suk and her three daughters were reported missing on March 3 after Kim Yeon Suk’s worried brother called the police.
While investigating, the police discovered that the last known contact with Kim Yeon Suk and her children was on February 18, when the restaurant owner told her staff she would be going on a family vacation. Although the police didn’t have any evidence that the family was dead, given their 20-day absence, it was a possibility.
At the time, the only clue they had for the family’s location was that the oldest daughter’s phone was turned on and off sporadically after February 18. The signal was last detected in Jeongan, South Chungcheong, on February 20.
Further investigation revealed that a man had been captured on CCTV footage on the night of February 18, going in and out of Kim Yeon Suk’s apartment with large bags. The footage showed the man going back and forth from the apartment, carrying large black bags, four times within 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the CCTV footage was too low quality to identify the suspect.
Police also learned Kim Yeon Suk had canceled a deposit account of ₩170 million KRW (about $123,000 USD) before February 15, prior to the family vacation.
Given the alleged relationship between Kim Yeon Suk and Lee Ho Seong and the fact that police could not reach Lee Ho Seong for questioning, he was ruled the main suspect in the family’s disappearance. The police publicly put out a warrant for Lee Ho Seong’s arrest, offering a reward of ₩3.00 million KRW (about $2,180 USD) to anyone who could help them find the former baseball player.
Shortly after police publicly announced Lee Ho Seong as a suspect, the former athlete’s body was found in the Han River on March 10. His body had no external wounds, and the fingerprints identified the man as Lee Ho Seong.
One day after Lee Ho Seong’s body was found, a man came forward to the police explaining that Lee Ho Seong had asked him to dig a pit in the cemetery near his father’s tomb. Kim Yeon Suk and her daughters’ bodies were quickly discovered in the recently dug hole.
The bodies showed that Kim Yeon Suk and her daughters were strangled to death, and the oldest daughter’s head was also bashed in.
The motive behind Lee Ho Seong’s mass murder will always remain a mystery as the former baseball player’s suicide note gave apologies to his mother, brother, wife, and son along with a message to his baseball team but didn’t give police any information about the murders or his suicide.
The murders are believed to have been pre-meditated since Lee Ho Seong purchased the travel bags and asked for the grave to be dug before the family’s disappearance.
Police generally suspect that Lee Ho Seong’s financial struggles were the motive, especially given Kim Yeon Suk’s sudden account withdrawal. The police discovered that Lee Ho Seong had used most of the money from Kim Yeon Suk. However, they could only identify that he had given the money to different women, instructing them to put the money into other accounts, which also alleged the idea that he had had multiple girlfriends at once.
Lee Ho Seong was also rumored to be very hot-headed and sometimes resorted to violence when he was team captain for the Haitai Tigers. This could further speak of his aggression towards others or his violent tendencies.
But aside from the lack of a known motive, further mystery surrounds the incident as CCTV footage later showed a man parking Kim Yeon Suk’s car at her apartment shortly after the family’s disappearance. However, body language experts believe that the man who parked the car differs from the man seen in the earlier CCTV footage.
The footage could indicate that Lee Ho Seong hired someone to park the car or that someone else was involved in the murder, but police believe the former is more likely since Lee Ho Seong could have tried to defend himself in court if there was another person involved.
There is also suspicion of Lee Ho Seong having been involved in two other deaths as Kim Yeon Suk’s husband died around the same time as his wife, allegedly from depression. Although there is no substantial evidence to connect Lee Ho Seong to the husband’s death, police found the timing suspicious.
One of the investors for Lee Ho Seong’s virtual horse racing arcade was also found dead in 2005, and while again, there is no direct evidence linking Lee Ho Seong to his death, the man’s wife alleged that her husband was supposed to meet the former baseball player on the day he died.