Cult mass murder, death of pro-Japanese poetAug. 29, 1987
A hideous incident occurred on this date after several local newspapers ran series of stories alleging a pseudo religion might be stealing money from its believers.
Thirty-two adult bodies were found dead inside the garret of a small crafts factory run by the religious group, Odaeyang.
About 100 bottles of sleeping pills were found lying near the bodies, some of which had scratches on their necks as though they had been strangled.
After a week-long investigation, police announced the deceased were members of Odaeyang and included the religious leader and her two sons.
The religious head, Park Sun-ja, was one of 29 people who had been locked up in the garret for four days without food or water, police said.
Her sons, 22 and 24 years old, and a 45-year-old factory head, had then killed the others one by one, before hanging themselves.
Police concluded that the case was a group suicide by a cult.
The public, however, was not satisfied with the police explanations.
Some pointed to the weak nature of the floor and that the garret was too small for 30 people to have stayed in for 4 days.
They said the floor was made of thin plywood and that the room was only 13 square meters (142 square feet) wide.
The bodies were also found in piles of two or three, proving they could not have slept there, people said.
In 1991, a forensic medicines doctor claimed the incident had been a homicide. There were also suspicions that the group was connected with a senior government official.
Later, former Odaeyang believers went to the police to testify there were others that had been killed and secretly buried earlier by what they believed was another in the group, for breaking an internal rule.
Prosecutors reopened the investigation in 1991, with little change in the result. They decided an internal fight within the cult must have led to the killings.
Sept. 2, 1912
One of the first female contemporary poets to lead Korea’s modernist movement in the 1930s was born on this date in 1912.
Noh Cheon-myeong reached the peak of her creative life during the Japanese occupation and watched it wither away as the nation became independent.
One of her more popular poems, “Deer,” is often recited by Koreans during their high school days.
Firstly, because it is only eight lines so is one of the easiest classic poems to memorize for a literature class assignment.
The poem is also very pretty and is especially liked by female students. It depicts narcissism and tells of a proud deer, aloof from the real world.
The latter half of the poem reads: “Looking down at your image reflected in the water; Recalling the legend that is no more; Out of nostalgia that you cannot escape; Gaze at the far mountain with your mournful neck.”
Ms. Noh’s life was far more controversial than that poem would suggest. Born at a time when it was tempting for people to collaborate with the Japanese colonizers to succeed, Ms. Noh wrote several poems, some in Japanese, that supported Japanese efforts to send Korean youths in their battles.
One of these, “Sinik,” praised a Korean man who voluntarily joined the Japa-nese kamikaze pilots and be-came the first to die on the battlefield.
Pitied by some who understood the pressure to collaborate, Ms. Noh was despised by many more.
Perhaps because of this, she longed for a life of solitude and died alone at home at the age of 45. She was single. It was reported she had been suffering from pernicious anemia.
Recently, in line with the Korean government and civic groups’ effort to uncover pro-Japanese activities during the colonial occupation, Ms. Noh was named as one of many non-political figures that were involved in “anti-national” activities.
In April, a nationalist civic group for Korean history studies started a petition to pass a law that seeks to redeem the property of pro-Japanese figures.
Ms. Noh was on the list.
by Lee Min-a
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