Kim Jung-ju, South Korean billionaire and founder of gaming company behind ‘MapleStory,’ dies at 54

kim jung ju nexon
  • Kim Jung-ju, the founder of Nexon, South Korea’s largest online gaming company, died on Feb. 28 at the age of 54.
  • NXC, Nexon’s holding company, announced Kim’s death and stated that he had been undergoing treatment for depression.
  • The 54-year-old was ranked the third richest man in South Korea with a net worth of $10.9 billion.
  • Nexon was the first Korean gaming company to earn over $830 million in annual sales after launching in 1994 and is the gaming company responsible for “MapleStory.”

Kim Jung-ju, the founder of Nexon, South Korea’s largest gaming company, died on Feb. 28 in Hawaii at 54 years old.

NXC, Nexon’s holding company, announced Kim’s death and stated that he had been undergoing treatment for depression, according to The Korea Herald.

He is survived by his two teenage daughters, Kim Jung-min and Kim Jung-youn, and wife, Yoo Jung-hyun. 

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Nexon CEO Owen Mahoney released a statement that read:, “It is difficult to express the tragedy of losing our friend and mentor Jay Kim, a man who had an immeasurably positive impact on the world. As a founder and visionary leader, Jay encouraged those around him to ignore the skeptics and trust their creative instincts. He will be deeply missed by his Nexon family and many friends.”

Kim launched Nexon in 1994, and it became the first Korean gaming company to earn over $830 million in annual sales within the first year of its debut. Nexon also developed one of the first multiplayer online role-playing games, “The Kingdom of the Winds,” in 1996 and launched one of the world’s most famous games, “MapleStory,” in 2003.

According to Seoulz, Nexon is now the biggest gaming company in South Korea with a market capitalization of $27 billion.

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In 2007, the 54-year-old made his debut on Forbes’ Korea’s Richest List where he ranked No. 28 with a net worth of $590 million. In June 2021, Kim officially became the third richest man in South Korea with a total net worth of $10.9 billion, reported Forbes.

After pleading not guilty to bribery charges in 2016 when Kim was indicted of lending money to a close prosecutor friend, he focused on various philanthropic work. According to Forbes, in 2017, Kim founded the venture philanthropy fund C Program, and in 2018, he vowed to donate $93 million to children’s hospitals and startup companies. He also stated that his children would not be inheriting his fortune.

Between 2013 and 2015, his company donated approximately $16.6 million to help build the Purme Foundation Nexon Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Seoul. Nexon claimed the hospital was the first rehabilitation hospital to be built for children in South Korea.

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Prior to his death, Kim continued donating to children’s hospitals in South Korea and had donated a total of $3.1 million to the Daejeon Chung-nam Public Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital as well as $2 million to the Nexon Children’s Palliative Care Center at Seoul National University Hospital, which is planned to open sometime this year. 

Feature Image via Nexon

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