Notorious serial killer identified after 4 decades

Isaac Waters, Sept. 19, 2019, 9:11 a.m.


Police believe they have finally nabbed a notorious serial killer of women who terrorized Hwaseong south of Seoul in the 1980s.

The unsolved murders have haunted the Korean public for three decades. The suspect is a man in his 50s who is in jail for a similar crime.

Police in southern Gyeonggi Province said Wednesday that tests by the National Forensic Service on DNA samples collected from the scenes of three of the historic crimes matched the DNA of one convict in a national database.

DNA samples of the suspect, identified only by his surname Lee, were collected from the underwear and other belongings of the victims found at the crime scenes and stored in evidence vaults.

Police said he denies the killings.

The suspect has been in prison in Busan since 1994 for raping and murdering his sister-in-law after his wife walked out on him. The suspect slipped sleeping pills into a drink he served his sister-in-law when she came to visit him in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province in January 1994 and raped her before killing her to cover up the crime.

All of the victims of the Hwaseong serial killings were women who were raped and brutally murdered. Beginning with a 70-year-old woman in September of 1986, a total of 10 serial killings occurred in the region until April 1991, when the dead body of a woman in her 60s was found.

The victims ranged in age from their teens to their 70s and were usually strangled to death with their stockings or another item of their clothing. The suspect then either mutilated the corpses with a sharp instrument or inserted objects into their genitals.

Samples of the murder suspect's semen, hair or cigarette butts were found in the crime scenes, but police were unable to match them to any known offender due to the limited forensic tools available at the time.

Police organized a massive manhunt but were unable to find the killer. The killings were the subject of the 2003 movie "Memories of Murder" by director Bong Joon-ho.

But the suspect will escape punishment for those killings because the statute of limitation for murders committed until 2007 was 15 years. The statute of limitations on his last crime expired in April 2006. Korea only scrapped the statute of limitation for murder in 2015.

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