Kim Jeong-ju, 54, Billionaire Founder of Nexon

Kim was one of the most successful start-up founders of South Korea.

Kim Jeong-ju, 54, Billionaire Founder of Nexon

Photo: Kim Jeong-ju.  Credit: NXC.

Kim Jeong-ju 김정주, founder of the videogame company Nexon Co. Ltd. 넥슨, was found dead in his home in Hawaii in an apparent suicide on Febraury 27.

Kim founded Nexon in 1996 as a graduate student at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) 한국과학기술원 together with Song Jae-gyeong (Jake Song) 송재경, and published its first title The Kingdom of the Winds 바람의 나라 - the world’s longest-running MMORPG game that continues to operate to this day.

Nexon eventually grew into a leading publisher of online games servicing primarily mobile gamers in Asia, reaching a market capitalization of over USD 20b and paving the way for South Korea’s strong presence in the world video game industry. Kim’s personal net worth was estimated to be USD 7b.

Widely admired as a self-made start-up success in the South Korean economy that is dominated by the inherited wealth of the chaebol 재벌 companies, Kim was also a generous philanthropist who founded Asia’s first museum for computers  – the Nexon Computer Museum 넥슨컴퓨터박물관 in Jeju 제주 – as well as Korea’s first rehabilitation hospital for children in Seoul 서울.

Kim also, however, faced investigation in 2016 for gifting non-public shares of Nexon worth KRW 16b (USD 14m) to a high-ranking prosecutor, Jin Gyeong-jun 진경준, as bribes. Although Kim avoided a guilty verdict (unlike Jin who was sentenced to four years in prison), his public image took a significant hit, causing Kim to resign from his company.

Kim Jeong-ju was known to be suffering from depression toward the end of his life. President Moon Jae-in 문재인 대통령 issued a statement of condolences.

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