Lee Chun-jae Serial Murder Case

李春宰连环杀人案 정예지, 박소현, 구시현l승인2020.12.07l수정2020.12.07 12:22l383호 1면

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   On November 2, Lee Chun-jae was present as a witness in the retrial of Yoon Sung-yeo, who had been convicted of the “8th Hwaseong serial murder." During the hearing, Lee took responsibility publicly for all 10 cases of rape and murder that terrorized the community from 1986 to 1991 and 4 more. Yoon Sung-yeo was convicted of the 8th murder and spent life in prison due to a confession that was forcibly extracted by the police in 1989. In 2009, Yoon was paroled after serving 20 years in prison, and in November 2019, after learning of Lee’s confession to police, he filed for a retrial to clear his name. New DNA evidence proved that it was Lee, not Yoon that committed the ghastly acts and on December 17, 2019, police announced that they were changing the name of the case from the ‘Hwaseong serial murders’ to the 'Lee Chun-jae serial murders.’

   The Hwaseong serial murder case was the most significant unsolved case in Korea. The victims were all women and methods used by the murderer were grotesque. Victims were sometimes found choked by their own clothing. In some cases, victims were stabbed post mortem and found with seven half-moon shaped pieces of peach inserted into their vaginas. The only reported evidence ever found in any of the cases was that of Yoon Sung-yeo, leaving the other cases unsolved for several decades.

▲ Lee Chun-jae high school graduation photograph. (Photo from SBS)

   Lee Chun-jae attended the hearing held at the Suwon District Court's Criminal Department 12 saying "At first, I tried to refuse to cooperate with the investigation, but after talking with profilers about my childhood, I was more open-minded and decided to confess." While serving a life sentence for the 1994 murder case of his sister-in-law in Cheongju, the National Forensic Service found Lee Chun-jae’s DNA consistent with the ninth case in the serial murders in Hwaseong. Using this as a starting point, all remaining evidence was examined, and the serial murderer was identified as Lee Chun-jae. Once arrested, Lee confessed to 4 other rape and murders and 34 more acts of sexual assault. He took responsibility for all 10 Hwaseong cases, including the eighth case, that Yoon already served 20 years for. After the investigation, the police booked Lee Chun-jae for nine of the crimes. However, the statute of limitations for all cases ended in 2006. For this reason, Lee Chun-jae attended the trial of 8th criminal as a witness, not as a defendant.

   Lee Chun-jae said he did not feel much responsibility for the crimes, even after watching the movie "Memories of Murder," which was based on his own criminal activity. Lee admitted he still carries a watch that belonged to one of his victims. He also criticized the police for their incompetence, saying they let him go after responding to some simple questions, even though he was questioned by police because he had the victim's watch.

   Specialists said that his testimony was typical of a psychopath. He did not feel any remorse and failed to understand the pain of the victims. Lee Su-jeong, a professor at Kyonggi University explained that he is incapable of empathizing with others. She also said that his testimony was a classic representation of the behavior of a psychopaths recalling their crimes. Psychopaths only answer to their own advantages when they recall their crimes. She also said, his testimony reveals the cruelty of psychopaths and their indifference to their victims. “It is impossible to rationalize the behavior of Lee Chun-jae. He feels a sense of satisfaction when people are shocked by his behavior.” Professor Kwon Il-yong, Korea’s first criminal profiler, suggested that Lee Chun-jae not only satisfied his desires by the crimes he committed, but also enjoyed ridiculing society for their reactions of deep shock towards his behavior. He argued that criminals like Lee Chun-jae are likely to commit another crime after returning to society and strict measures to ensure he is contained is necessary.

▲ 'Memories Of Murder', the movie based on the Hwaseong serial murder. (Photo from MoneyS)

   "Did you get up early in the morning?" one of many famous lines Song Kang-ho left us with in the movie "Memories of Murder" a film inspired by the Hwaseong murders. It took more than 30 years for the case people thought would never be solved, to finally be closed. Society is left wondering why it took so long. We live in an age dominated by violence flowing from top to bottom like water. Ten women were brutally murdered, but the fault lies not only with the murderer. It is also because of a complacent investigation process and inadequate investigative techniques. The Korean government is considering canceling the special promotions of police officers who were involved in the case for their role in the botched investigations. While there will never be any justice for the victims, the serial murder cases have finally been solved, with the help of new DNA evidence techniques. We can only hope that science will continue to help other victims of unsolved cases find peace in knowing the criminal responsible has finally been identified.


정예지, 박소현, 구시현  dankookherald@gmail.com
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