Former bodyguard’s dark tale of marriage to Samsung royalty

Posted on : 2016-06-16 18:37 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee told Im Woo-jae to marry Lee’s daughter Boo-jin; Im couldn‘t refuse
Im Woo-jae during a meeting with a Hankyoreh reporter at a restaurant in Seoul’s Jongno district
Im Woo-jae during a meeting with a Hankyoreh reporter at a restaurant in Seoul’s Jongno district

Im Woo-jae, 46, advisor at Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co., told the Hankyoreh about his ongoing divorce litigation with Lee Boo-jin, 44, president of the Shilla Hotel, during a telephone interview on June 15.

“Boo-jin’s lawyers are telling lies about how my son doesn’t want to see me. They’re making false claims that I’m a money-grubber and that I abused her,” Im said.

The Hankyoreh has met with Im on several occasions since April and heard about the reasons for his divorce proceedings with Lee. Im had asked the Hankyoreh not to run the story until the verdict was made in an appeal trial to the divorce lawsuit that is being tried at the Suwon District Court. But when another newspaper ran a story on Wednesday by a reporter who had met Im on the condition of not filing a story, Im agreed to the Hankyoreh’s request to run the report. “Set the story straight,” Im urged.

Im says that he had been Lee’s bodyguard. Samsung has previously claimed that Im had been working in the computing department at Samsung C&T Corporation when he met Lee during a volunteering activity.

“I was working as security for Chairman Lee Kun-hee [Lee Boo-jin’s father] when I was assigned to provide security for Boo-jin. She was very frail and depended on me a lot,” Im said.

“When Boo-jin said we should get married, I refused and told her that she shouldn‘t say such things. There was just too much of a gap between our family backgrounds. Chairman Lee allowed us to date, but I thought that marriage was off the table. But then Chairman Lee himself told me to marry her. I just couldn’t say no to the chairman,” Im said.

Going to the US to study after marriage was a living nightmare, Im recalled.

“I didn’t know a single word of English. Chairman Lee told us to go to the US to study. At Samsung, the chairman’s words are taken as gospel. Preparing to study abroad was so hard for me that I even tried to kill myself. I held my wife in my arms and sobbed like a baby.”

“Boo-jin‘s attorneys are telling lies in the courtroom. They’re saying that I spent my time drinking instead of studying and that I beat her,” Im said.

Im sighed several times while talking about his son, who is in the third grade of elementary school. He claims that he was not able to see his son as much as he liked and that Boo-jin kept him from fulfilling his role as father.

His son was not even allowed to see his paternal grandparents for nearly 10 years, Im said.

“It was only after the court issued an injunction giving me visitation rights in March of last year that my father got to see his grandson’s face for the first time. The only time my mother had seen the boy was on his first birthday,” Im said.

“I try calling, but they won’t let me see my son. My son doesn‘t have a mobile phone. There are people assigned to keep an eye on him. I beg them to just let me talk to him, but they won’t do it. I‘ve had to just resign myself to the fact that I can’t see him,” Im said.

Im said that, until recently, it had been difficult for him to see his son. “It wasn‘t easy since my son is not just my son - he’s the son of my boss [Boo-jin].”

From June 11 to 12, Im went camping with his son in Chuncheon. “Now my son and I feel comfortable around each other,” Im said.

Lee Boo-jin’s lawyers reportedly claimed during the appeal that Im’s son does not like him.

“It’s heartbreaking to see grownups fighting over a kid. They [Lee Boo-jin’s lawyers] are trying to smear me as some kind of boor who demands money and beats his wife.”

“When Boo-jin and I were together, we lived in a small apartment. There were 18 workers who were in and out all the time. If I had been drinking and causing trouble in that tiny apartment, the workers would obviously have seen it. But no one saw me acting like that back then,” Im said.

Yun Jae-yun, an attorney from Sejong Law Firm who is representing Lee Boo-jin, dismissed Im’s claims as “preposterous.” Yun says that the reason the court reduced the visitation rights that Im requested from twice a month to once a month is because Im’s son was uncomfortable seeing him.

Im does not have high hopes for the outcome of his appeal. On Wednesday, Im’s attorney, Nam Gi-chun, stepped down, reportedly because the media reports about Im made him feel uncomfortable about working on the lawsuit.

Im and Lee’s divorce litigation began in Oct. 2014 when Lee asked the courts to mediate divorce and to assign custody of their son. On Jan. 14, Hon. Joo Jin-oh, the family law judge in the Seongnam branch of the Suwon District Court who was in charge of the case, ruled in Lee‘s favor. Im appealed the ruling, and preparation for the second round of arguments in the appeal is scheduled to take place on June 29.

By Heo Jae-hyun, staff reporter

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