Jury reaches verdict in 11-year missing body case

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Jury reaches verdict in 11-year missing body case

After an all-night jury deliberation, the case of the “murder with the missing body,” that has been pending for 11 years, has finally reached a verdict.

The jury trial convened on Monday morning. In an extremely rare case, the hearing to try two defendants charged with the murder of their boss, proceeded from 10 a.m. Tuesday through yesterday morning, lasting 25 consecutive hours.

Hong Dong-gi, Supreme Court spokesman, stated, “This is the first time that a hearing has lasted over 24 hours for a civilian trial.”

As dawn approached yesterday, the jury appeared weary, but the prosecutors expressed that “it’s a case that has been unsolved for 11 years, so we have to end it this time around.”

The Seoul Eastern District Court announced, however, that the long-awaited ruling on Seo, 49, and Kim, 46, charged with the murder of their boss in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, whose body has not yet been recovered, will not be revealed until Friday.

In November 2000, the president of a vinyl manufacturing factory in Pyeongchang, Kang Byeong-ho, 49 at the time, disappeared without a trace. The Gangwon police then proceeded to treat the disappearance as a murder case, however they made no progress.

Ten years after the murder of Kang, in April 2010, Yang Yeong-jo, 59, confessed to the police that while his two coworkers held Kang’s arms, he beat Kang to death with a hammer. Then they disposed of Kang’s body on a Gangwon hill.

Yang, who had terminal cancer, passed away eight days after his confession, and the case was reopened.

Following that, police arrested Yang’s accomplices, Kim and Seo, on suspicion of murder. However because Kang’s body could not be found, prosecutors could not go forward with the case.

However, in May this year, another man surnamed Kim, 57, confessed to the police, “Four people, including Yang, conspired together and killed Kang,” and Seo and Kim were brought to trial. The defense counsel requested a trial by jury.

Kim, 57, was one of the eight witnesses who testified during the trial.

Because Kang’s body had not been found, the battle between the prosecutors and the defendants’ legal counsel was fierce.

The prosecutors had the burden of proving the murder without concrete evidence or Kang’s corpse.

The credibility of witness Kim’s testimony was contested between the prosecutors and defense attorney who claimed, “Kim made a mistake in his testimony because he has an illness.”

The prosecutors said they found no evidence of witness Kim having received psychiatric treatment.

The defendants said, “It’s correct we moved the corpse, but we did not participate in the murder.”

Both Kim and Seo owed 6 million ($5,240) to 10 million won to Kang.

In Korea, the average sentence for murder is 15 years and the abandonment of a corpse is five.

The Seoul Eastern District Court stated yesterday, “The ruling has been postponed because of the sheer amount of investigation reports and more time is needed to sort the evidence.”

Meanwhile, a representative from the court stated, “There were conflicting opinions in the jury as they came to a verdict.”

By Lee Jeong-bong [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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