An autopsy released Thursday showed that he died alone of hypothermia. His body was found in a creek's shallow water, about a mile away from his family's car.
"James Kim did nothing wrong. He was trying to save his family," said Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police said a Thursday news conference. "He thought that if he could get to the river, he could make it to the town."
Kim thought the nearby town of Galice was only 4 miles distant, although it was really 15 miles away, Hastings said.
After scouring the mountains of southern Oregon for days, a search helicopter hired by his family spotted Kim's body midday Wednesday. He was found fully clothed on his back in Big Windy Creek near the Rogue River, authorities said.
When Kim's body was found in a rugged gorge in the Oregon coastal range, it ended a search that had become personal for many of those working on it, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.
That was clear when Undersheriff Brian Anderson stepped to the microphones with bad news.
"At 12:03 today, the body of James Kim was located down in the big windy creek ... uhhhh," and Anderson walked away, tearful.
Dr. James Olson, a deputy state medical examiner, conducted the autopsy Thursday morning and was unable to determine the exact time of death, Hastings said.
Kim's wife, Kati, and two daughters were rescued Monday when they were spotted by a search helicopter as they were leaving the car to find help themselves. With only baby food and a few snacks in the car, Kati Kim had nursed her two daughters to keep them alive during the ordeal.
Kim, 35, was a senior editor for the technology media company CNET Networks Inc. He and his family had been missing since Nov. 25. They were heading home to San Francisco after a family vacation in the Pacific Northwest, and apparently got stuck in the snow after making a wrong turn.
Hastings said Kati told officers it snowed hard several days while the family was stuck, and the family heard helicopters at least twice.
"Kati and the kids are in good condition as it relates to the ordeal that they've been through," he said.