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Former Hyundai executive extradited in DUI case

January 30, 2009 |  1:38 pm

A fugitive who fled the country for his native South Korea after allegedly killing a motorcyclist in a 2005 crash will be extradited to Orange County today to face felony charges.

South Korean authorities arrested Youn Bum Lee, 41, in Seoul in December on a warrant related to the death of motorcyclist Ryan Dallas Cook. The FBI and the U.S. Justice Department had been searching for Lee in South Korea since the arrest warrant was issued in 2007.

Lee is expected to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport at 3:15 p.m., escorted by the U.S. Marshals Service. He faces charges of felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs with injury, and hit-and-run with injury or death, said Susan Kang Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office.

Lee, a former executive at Hyundai, had been drinking with colleagues at a Garden Grove Korean barbecue restaurant in October 2005, according to authorities. The group later moved to a nearby karaoke bar, where Lee consumed more alcohol, authorities said.

Lee got into a black, company-issued Hyundai SUV shortly after midnight and crashed it into a concrete barrier on the 55 Freeway in Santa Ana, where it remained with its lights extinguished, police said.

Cook, 23, was riding his motorcycle when he slammed into Lee's car. He was subsequently struck by other motorists.

Approximately 24 hours later, Lee was on a plane to South Korea, authorities said.

Cook's parents filed a lawsuit against Hyundai Motor America, alleging that company officials helped Lee leave the country before he could be questioned by police. Lee is scheduled to be arraigned Monday. If convicted of all counts, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison.

-- My-Thuan Tran