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Game, startup industries mourn death of Nexon founder

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Nexon's late founder Kim Jung-ju / Courtesy of Nexon
Nexon's late founder Kim Jung-ju / Courtesy of Nexon

By Baek Byung-yeul

Leaders in the games and startup industries here are mourning the abrupt death of Kim Jung-ju, founder of the country's largest game company Nexon, expressing their condolences and sharing heartwarming stories about Kim on social media.

"My beloved friend left us. I have never felt this great a pain in my life," Kim Taek-jin, founder and CEO of NCSOFT, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday night when news of the Nexon founder's death reached him.

NXC, the holding company of Nexon, said Tuesday that Kim died in the United States late last month. He was 54.

The company disclosed no specific details about the cause of death but said, "Kim had been receiving treatment for depression, and we are sad that it seems to have worsened recently."

The company added a request to respect the bereaved family's privacy.

The NCSOFT CEO and the deceased are known as long-standing colleagues in the game industry. Both graduated the College of Engineering at Seoul National University. The CEO Kim entered in 1985 while the Nexon founder entered in 1986.

"I loved my friend who walked together with me on the path of life. I hope you are at peace now," the NCSOFT CEO added.

Owen Mahoney, CEO of Nexon, also expressed his condolences to the deceased's bereaved family. "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," Mahoney said in a statement.

"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."

The Korea Venture Business Association also paid respects. "We sincerely mourn Chairman Kim's death," the association said in a statement. "The deceased founded Nexon, the world's first online game service company, in the early 1990s and has contributed greatly to Korea's development as a global game powerhouse today."

Kim founded Nexon in 1994 and made it the most valuable game company in Korea with a market capitalization of around 24 trillion won ($19.9 billion). He developed the country's first online multiplayer role-playing game "Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds" in 1996.

The company also published popular online games such as "Maple Story," "KartRider," "Mabinogi" and "Dungeon Fighter Online."

Nexon said it would announce details on management of the founder's stake in the company and its future business plans after the funeral.

Kim owned a 67.49 percent stake in NXC. Including the shares of his bereaved wife Yoo Jung-hyun, who holds a 29.43 percent, and his two daughters, who hold 1.36 percent combined, the family's total stake in NXC is at 98.28 percent.

NXC has a 47.89 percent stake in Nexon Japan, a Tokyo Stock Exchange-listed company. The late Kim resigned from the CEO post of NXC last July and had been serving as director of the company since then.

"This is not a situation when the bereaved family can discuss the issue of the company's equity. They are in mourning. We'll be able to give details later once the situation is sorted out," a Nexon spokesman said.

Baek Byung-yeul

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