South Korean lotto winner loses it ‘Gangnam Style’

gangnam style

Janite might well have danced like Psy when she won the lotto in 1993

However, one of the targets of his satirical techno ditty could well have been a humble shop worker called Janite Lee, a Korean-American who won a fortune in the lottery – and promptly blew the lotto.

Lee, who emigrated from South Korea as a child, was working in a wig shop when she bagged the top prize in the State lottery in 1993. No sooner had she won her $18 million fortune in her new home of Illinois, she was moving her family into a million-dollar gated community in St. Louis, buying cars, horses, and clothes, and equipping herself with all the trappings of a newly-minted Lotto champ.


But material possessions weren’t enough for Lee. She wanted more, and she wanted other people to have more too. So, she started turning to philanthropy, with political parties and local universities among the many glad recipients of her donations. She was giving so much money to the Democrats at one point, she eventually found herself rubbing elbows at fundraising dinners with then President and Vice-President, Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Lee’s educational donations, meanwhile, saw her name adorning a reading room at the Washington University School of Law. When she was in full stride, Lee was dishing out over $600,000 a year in goodwill gestures.

These tales of Lottery winners always seem to have the same ending, however, and after just eight years, Lee’s $18 million (about $0.001 for every hit Gangnam Style has had on YouTube) had disappeared well and truly down the toilet. The houses were put back on the market, the fundraising dinner invitations stopped dropping through the letterbox, and the ‘Janite Lee Reading Room’ sign was unceremoniously being unscrewed and chucked in the bin.


Before the decade was out, Lee found herself in a bankruptcy court looking to settle her considerable debts. The 60-year-old had a mere $700 to her name by 2001, and was in hock to the tune of $2.5 million. Lee managed to sell her philanthropic enterprises to an interested buyer, but it was back to the wig shop for her.

And so, another rags-to-riches-to-rags story was being filed away in the Encyclopedia of Lottery Winners Who Royally Blew It All. Where’s an ex-President when you need one, huh?

Janite is certainly not the first to lose the lot, with other famous examples including young UK winner Callie Rogers¬†or the self-proclaimed King of Chav’s Michael Carroll. Even winners of the mighty Euromillions have been known to squander large proportions of their fortune.

Filed Under: Winners, Losers & Amazing Stories


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