[THIS WEEK IN HISTORY]Susie Kim’s retribution; a young boxer’s deathNov. 13, 2001
This was the date on which Susie Kim could finally rest in peace, after her violent death in 1987. Living a fairly mediocre existence in Hong Kong, Ms. Kim never imagined in her wildest dreams that she’d be accused of being a North Korean agent, but that is exactly what happened as part of a conspiracy hatched by her husband, Yun Tae-sik.
The two met in Hong Kong in 1986, where Ms. Kim was working as a waitress at local bars. Mr. Yun, planning to start a business in Hong Kong, was introduced to her by a friend and they tied the knot soon after. Their married life, however, was not happy and soon the two were fighting almost every night. The night of Jan. 3, 1987, started out as no exception, but had a deadly ending as Mr. Yun, in a fit of blind rage, strangled his 34-year-old wife.
After hiding Ms. Kim’s body under a bed, Mr. Yun fled their apartment in panic and flew to Singapore. When he got there he set out for the one country in which he thought he could start a whole new life: North Korea. He went straight to the North Korean Embassy and requested exile in the North, but he received a cold reception.
He then went to the U.S. Embassy, which sent him to the South Korean Embassy. It was there that he concocted the story that he had narrowly escaped before his wife could send him to North Korea. Mr. Yun told the South Korean National Security Planning Agency that his wife was a North Korean spy, something he had discovered after being visited by pro-North Korean Japanese agents on the night of his flight to Singapore.
He said the agents showed up and threatened his wife over an unpaid debt, then took her away while he barely escaped. The National Security Planning Agency, all-powerful during the military regimes, decided after three months of investigation to trust Mr. Yun and his story. When Ms. Kim’s body was found weeks after her death, the Hong Kong police fingered Mr. Yun as the prime suspect and asked for cooperation from South Korea. The agency, however, was not so helpful.
Today, many people voice suspicions that the agency turned a blind eye to the truth on purpose. Mr. Yun held a press conference later calling his dead wife a North Korean spy, and from then on he led a normal life in South Korea. His misdeeds continued, however, as he used forged identities to obtain credit cards.
As a businessman, Mr. Yun had a breakthrough with a start-up company in the late 1990s, featured on TV shows. Viewers of the show included Ms. Kim’s surviving siblings, who had led a destitute life as the family of a “North Korean spy,” and they eventually filed a lawsuit against him for murdering their sister.
The days of falsehood ended on this date, when prosecutors arrested Mr. Yun on this charge, just a year before the statute of limitations expired. Found guilty, he was sentenced to 15 years and six months in prison, and is currently serving his term. The agency, today’s National Intelligence Service, apologized to Ms. Kim’s family, but did not provide compensation as a suit filed against it was rejected by the courts.
Nov. 14, 1982
Kim Duk-koo was a hungry boxer whose only goal was to win a world championship in the ring. To Mr. Kim, 23, who used to make a living shining shoes and doing other menial jobs, boxing was an honorable sport with everyone being equal in the ring. Beginning to make a name for himself as a boxer, he decided to face a formidable opponent, American boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
He knew he had a slim chance, but he had to do it for the prize money of $20,000, a fortune for him, and so he fought in the lightweight title match of the World Boxing Association in Las Vegas on this date.
Mr. Kim did his best, even taking the lead in the first few rounds, but in the 14th round he received a powerful blow to the head and collapsed, unconscious. He never regained consciousness, having suffered a brain hemorrhage, and died four days later. Decades after his death, “Champion,” a movie commemorating his brief and tragic career, was released in 2002.
by Chun Su-jin