fugitive founder of the Daewoo Group is hiding in Europe and contemplating suicide
because of his role in bankrupting the Korean conglomerate, the BBC internet news
service said today, citing an interview with his lawyer in a South Korean magazine.

According to BBC Online, Kim Woo-Choong’s lawyer, Seok Jin-Gang, told the magazine
that Kim may return home after he had written his memoirs or could even take
his own life.

"He is on the run not to avoid punishment but to put order in the life
he has lived so far," he reportedly told the Monthly Chosun, a high profile
Seoul magazine.

The 65-year-old tycoon disappeared after the Daewoo conglomerate collapsed
under $US80 billion of debt in July 1999.

BBC Online said that, two weeks ago, South Korean prosecutors asked Interpol
to issue an international warrant for Kim’s arrest for fraud and embezzlement.

It added that the lawyer told the magazine that Kim had not been leading a
luxury life abroad with embezzled money since he fled South Korea on October
11, 1999.

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"These days he is staying in third class hotels and eating hamburgers
for his daily meal," said Seok, adding that Kim’s bills are being
picked-up by friends.

The former chairman is reportedly worried, the BBC said, that he may have a
second attack of stomach cancer and the lawyer claimed he is also being treated
for arteriosclerosis.

According to the BBC, there have been reported sightings of Kim in France,
Switzerland, Sudan and Vietnam.

BBC Online said that Kim founded the Daewoo group in the 1960s, building up
South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate by taking on bankrupt state companies
and relentlessly expanding abroad using borrowed cash.

The empire collapsed when he could not repay debts, leaving South Korean banks
with huge unpaid loans that forced the government to extend a 20 trillion won
($US16 billion) bail-out package.

Prosecutors are collecting evidence to back charges that Kim ordered executives
to inflate assets so the group could receive 10 trillion won in bank loans between
1997 and 1999, the BBC said.

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