Exchange Student Dies After Schoolyard Fight

SYLMAR (CBS) — A South Korean exchange student who died after a fight with a friend and fellow pupil was remembered Friday by schoolmates and administrators who called the death a “tragic accident between good friends.”

Jin Su Lee, 19, collapsed and later died at a hospital after he and a 17-year-old boy traded blows in a fight that lasted about 10 seconds during gym class Tuesday.

The teen, who wasn’t identified because of his age, was arrested Thursday for investigation of assault. Prosecutors deferred filing any charges until an autopsy determines Lee’s cause of death, but police spokesman Richard French said the teen suspect could face a murder charge.

It wasn’t immediately known when the autopsy would take place.

Bill Stark, First Lutheran High School’s executive director, said the teen learned about his friend’s death two days after the fight.

“His reaction was devastation when he heard,” said Stark, who has been housing the boy since he arrived from Korea a few months ago. “He’s still coping, he’s been in agony. We are helping a young man rebuild his life.”

He called the death a “tragic accident between good friends.”

Both boys are from Seoul and their families have traveled to the United States in recent days, Stark said.

Stark said the fight was broken up immediately by a teacher. Lee, who suffered head injuries, took a couple of steps before he collapsed, he said.

The boys apparently had an ongoing dispute but Stark would only say it may have stemmed from cultural differences between the U.S. and Korea.

Lee recently turned 19, and the teen who was arrested was the only Korean boy who attended the birthday party, Stark said. Lee was described as a gifted singer and drummer, while the 17-year-old was a good athlete.

Both teens, who were sophomores, were expected to finish their high school education in the U.S.

On Friday, students at the school in Sylmar, an area of the San Fernando Valley, attended a worship service in memory of Lee. It would have been on the day of the school’s annual Christmas party, before students begin a two-week holiday break.

Lee’s locker was adorned with notes and a necklace bearing a cross. Students also posted messages on Facebook and Twitter, expressing their sorrow over what had happened.

“We are just trying to protect our kids right now,” Stark said.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)



    • James

      How does this involve the parent?! Kids fight, often. This sort of result doesn’t come about with every scuffle, so I think it’s actually safe to treat this as the freak accident that it was. I think assault is appropriate, but I don’t think he should suffer any murder charges. Both might have been charged with assault had he survived, so it seems appropriate. It was a fight. You don’t intend to kill someone every time you put up your dukes. Sometimes, living with the consequences of your actions actually is a sufficient punishment.

      • katherine

        I agree completely. A freak accident it was. Murder charges? For God’s sake, I can only hope not.

      • doctordoominabra

        Really? You dont intend to do hard when you strike a blow? Im sure you dont intend to kill someone with a punch but the reality of it is that it is violence and either way you had a choice in the matter. Sometimes the best punishment is living with those choices everyday, in jail.

    • sara

      how did the parent get into this?

      • g


  • Jeet-Do

    Those Tae Kwan Do lessons

    • Kim

      Dang. North Koreans

      • unkown

        he is south korean

  • Vinnke Sanchez

    You can always blame the Americans.

  • lala63

    That is sad. Why are you posters so cold? Are you incapable of empathy at all? This was a kid. How would you like it if your kid was in another country and passed away?

    • Connie

      You’re right, but then again…this is why the USA is deteriorating.

      • Bubba Franks

        The US is deteriorating because now white people dont have education and are dumber than everyone else. Dont go to school…listen to Glenn beck while we call India and the rest of Asia for technical and scientific expertise. you proud humble patriots proving its ok to only care about guns and religion! YOu show ’em!

  • mycomment

    @Lexusry- really?! Did you even read the title? “Exchange student”, parents had nothing to do with it. Also Lexus is garbage anyway.

  • rider83

    I agree with all the liberals, isn’t it wonderful the results of lowering the standards in schools so more minorities will graduate!! Some people are just born stupid like most liberals! America is slowly becoming one of the most ignorant country’s on earth and the sad part is most Americans are proud of that fact!

    • Jezebel

      You should really consider going back to elementary school, because there are so many grammatical errors in your post, I lost track of them. It was painful to read.

      • ohworrrd

        Grammatical…you need to go back to school

      • Katherine

        This is in response to ohworrrd’s reply to you: Yes, “grammatical” is correct – both the spelling and the usage. Is that what you are challenging?

    • James

      Rider83, I have to say that it’s funny you complain about ignorance when your own post is rife with errors. For example, you used a comma when you should have used a semicolon, and you wrote “country’s” instead of the plural “countries.” Hypocrite83, you’re the last person who should bemoan American ignorance.

      • Palabra

        Hence his name being “Hypocrite83”

    • Anonymous Like You

      @ Ohhhword: Grammatical is the correct term, you big idiot.

      @ rider83: I’m honestly pretty surprised that you graduated at all what with your flawed version of logic and wicked stupid way of expressing yourself.

      This is a sad story and I think you all are a bunch of idiots that hide behind your nerdy internet anonymity and post inane comments about other people’s tragedies. When something incredibly sad happens to you I will be sure to be right there posting stupid comments to amuse myself. Maybe your mother will read them.

      • David

        Amen to that! There are way too many people who use the anonymity of the internet to post hateful comments that most of them would never consider saying in public. For shame!

    • Mike

      You do know the Asian minority outscores the white majority in every aspect of school don’t you?

      And also it’s “countries.” It’s plural. Your form implies some sort of ownership.

    • John Doe

      You do know the most liberal state are the ones with high ranked education institution, while conservative states are WAY behind in the rankings.

      For example, southern states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and etc are considered the lowest ranked educated states. Other states like California, Virginia, Pennsylvania have the highest ranked education

  • Chas

    Yes, some people are born stupid. Like people who incorrectly use the word “country’s” I’m trying to figure out what your pointless dribble has to do with a story about two exchange students fighting.

  • mark

    Um,Chas? I totally agree with you regarding rider83’s diatribe being “drivel,” and I bet he has spit “dribble” all over his shirt too.

  • MattGMD

    I guess Asians harbor violent tempers just like everyone else.

  • Samuel

    It’s sad. I thought Korean foreign exchange students would have a better lot in life, but this shows it’s a dog-eat-dog world for them too.

    • Palabra

      You sir are extremely ignorant.

  • Wally Wharton

    “Dog-eat-dog!” And we’re talkin’ ’bout KOREANS!!! Ha ha!!!

  • moho

    I would love to see all you poseurs, ummmm ‘posters’ together in a room. I bet a hundered dollars none of you would spew any of this hate out loud. Pathetic. Vaginas, allaya.

  • Ven

    Hope that damn teenager goes to prison.

  • Josh Butts

    Just a hard blow to the face can dislodge the brain from the skull and cause bleeding. Shortly after that you can die. He must have had a soft head. Kids get in fights all the time but usually the blows aren’t fatal.

  • moho

    Me. too. I want to see him all lathered up in shower with other inmates…oh um, never mind.

  • moho's mom

    Mijo, come home it’s time to eat.

    And don’t forget to stop at the store and get some KY.

  • Top Posts —

    […] Exchange Student Dies After Schoolyard Fight SYLMAR (CBS) — A South Korean exchange student who died after a fight with a friend and fellow pupil was remembered […] […]

  • rmsbl4

    If both boys were from Seoul then why would the cultural differences between the US and Korea have any bearing on the story

    • Kristy Bragdon-Bill

      I think they were giving a possible reason for the fight. Maybe one boy was assimilating to US culture and customs and the other did not approve of him turning his back on their native culture. Just a though

  • sdgsdfg

    Must have been a hard blow to the head, not the face. probably side of the head, temple region, right behind the eyes – that’s supposed to kill you. I believe in boxing it’s illegal to punch anywhere other than the face precisely to avoid killing someone.

    • Kristy Bragdon-Bill

      An upper cut can fling your head up and back to the side causing your jugular to rip open.

  • BazyM

    I have taught for a long time and I have witnessed many fights. It’s bizarre that a ten second fight ended in death. We obviously don’t have all of the facts, so it is useless to speculate. My deepest sympathy to both families.

  • Alexei

    There’s absolutely no way that the 17-year had any intentions of killing that other kid if the fight only lasted in ten seconds. How can you try a person for murder, let alone a kid, if he didn’t intend to kill him?

    The prosecutors should really take a look at some of the incidents from NHL in the past couple of years. Some of those were extremely brutal (remember Chris Simon’s vicious attack on Donald Brashear?) and the intent was clearly to seriously injure the other players. But since no-one actually died then, hey, a long suspension is sufficient…

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