Homeless woman accused of killing her second baby

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Homeless woman accused of killing her second baby

A woman who allegedly killed her baby after giving birth in a Seoul motel is under arrest and will be detained after police secure a warrant.

And investigators said it isn’t the first time she’s killed her own newborn. The 37-year-old, surnamed Kim, who has no living children, served one year in prison after killing her baby in 1997. The maximum penalty for infanticide is 10 years in jail.

Investigators at Dongdaemun Police Precinct said Kim checked into a motel in Hwigyeong-dong, Dongdaemun District, at 11 a.m. on Feb. 24. At 6:40 p.m., she allegedly left the motel, telling the staff not to clean her room because she’d be back at 10 p.m.

But Kim never returned, and the next day the cleaning staff found a suffocated baby wrapped in a blanket, and blood all over the floor.

The staff immediately contacted police, who arrested Kim at an Internet cafe in Imun-dong, Dongdaemun District, Seoul. Kim allegedly admitted that she had choked her baby inside a blanket because she was not confident she could raise a child alone.

Kim is homeless, sleeping in Internet cafes and jjimjilbangs (Korean style 24-hour saunas), police said.

The officer in charge of the case said that Kim appeared mentally stable during questioning. “She just acted like any other normal person, and we have no plans to ask for a psychiatrist to examine her,” he said.

Song Hyoung-seok, a psychiatrist at Maum Kwa Maum Clinic in Ilsan, said women who kill their own babies sometimes suffer from postpartum psychosis or chronic psychosis.

“In postpartum psychosis, a person may end up killing her own child because she feels that someone will kill her baby or thinks that the baby could ruin her life,” said Song. He said one or two out of every 1,000 women suffer from postpartum psychosis.

“In chronic psychosis, the person’s behavior doesn’t appear weird or awkward to others,” he said. “They look expressionless because they don’t realize the significance of their acts.”

Police said Kim told them she got pregnant last March by a man she met through an Internet chat room. She said she had lost contact with him when she realized she was pregnant.

Kim also allegedly told investigators that she wanted to get an abortion, but was afraid to visit a hospital after the Health Ministry announced it would crack down on illegal abortions last year. Police said Kim didn’t get hospital treatment or medications after the baby’s birth because she feared arrest.

The murder shocked the motel staff. “We had no idea Kim was a pregnant woman. She just looked emotionless when she first came in and when she left here,” one employee said.

Kim was wearing a man’s jacket and jeans when she checked into the motel, and wore her hair in a man’s crop. Police said she began dressing like a man after she was released from prison because she hated being looked at as a woman.

Kim had lived with her family in Gyeonggi until last March. Police said she has no regular income and has been living on charity.

By Kim Hyo-eun, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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