Reference: 6/7/2001, by Noel S. Brady, reporter for Eastside Journal in Washington State
A martial arts master yesterday struck a plea bargain with prosecutors and admitted to wielding a samurai sword that caused the death of a Bellevue businessman. Hui Son Choe, 40, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for the death of 37-year-old Ki Gol Lee, which occurred after an argument between the two men turned violent. King County Prosecutor's spokesman Dan Donohoe said the state will recommend a judge sentence Lee to 9½ years in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 29.
At the time of the April 2000 melee, Choe lived in Spanaway and ran a martial arts school in Federal Way. A seventh-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, Choe also was well respected as a master and innovator of Hap Ki Do, a lesser-known martial art about which he has written a book. A Korean immigrant who helped other Koreans secure home and business loans, Lee showed up at Choe's dojo and confronted him in a parking lot there, prosecutors say. Witnesses told police the two began arguing, but a fight broke out after Choe rushed Lee with a drawn samurai sword. The fight ended after Lee sustained a 2½-foot-long gash to his inner right thigh, severing his femoral artery. He died early the next morning at Harborview Medical Center.
Detectives followed a trail of blood into Choe's school. Inside, they found a bloody samurai sword and blood-spattered clothing that matched witness' descriptions of the sword fighter. They later arrested Choe at his Spanaway home. Donohoe said it is still unclear what the two men were arguing about. Prosecutors originally charged Choe with second-degree murder, but that charge was reduced for lack of evidence, he said. "We felt there were some proof problems to get murder-two,'' he said.