Korea’s Clouseaus

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Korea’s Clouseaus

Forensic investigators confirmed the decayed body discovered in a plum orchard not far from a holiday home of billionaire Yoo Byung-eun - who had been wanted for questioning in the April 16 sinking of the Sewol ferry that killed more than 300 passengers - to be the fugitive’s. The National Forensic Service said that DNA, a fingerprint and dental tests on the decomposed body matched samples and records of Yoo. But the cause of his death is likely to remain a mystery because it couldn’t be determined in an autopsy. Some 80 percent of the body had decomposed, and there is no way to tell where he was after leaving a hiding place in his villa in Suncheon and how he ended up in the orchard 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) away.

The forensic findings underscored the embarrassingly sloppy police manhunt and investigation. Yoo went on the run after refusing to comply with prosecution summons for questioning on charges of embezzlement, criminal negligence and other illegalities in connection with the erratic and probably negligent operation of the Sewol ferry, which almost certainly led to the tragedy. The autopsy report suggests local police remain far behind the times in technology and investigative abilities.

Even though he was Korea’s most famous wanted man since April, police thought the body discovered not far from Yoo’s holiday home was that of a homeless man, even though he bore decisive physical similarities to Yoo, such as a cut-off finger on the left hand, and 10 gold teeth. If they had paid even the slightest attention, they would have suspected the body was Yoo’s. We can’t understand why the police missed such obvious clues.

The police were also clumsy with the evidence. They merely took pictures of clothes and other items found near the body and dumped them in a funeral hall. They misplaced his cane. Eyeglasses claimed to be Yoo’s turned out to be a farmer’s. Now, the Suncheon police are belatedly rummaging through the area with 181 policemen and search dogs. Police and civilian hunters eying a 500 million won ($486,855) reward had already finished with the area. Talking about fixing the stable door after the horse has bolted. What do they expect to find now?

The police say they are studying CCTV clips from the area. That’s an admission of the fact that they didn’t do it previously, even though they were chasing the man for two months. With a sloppy police force like ours, even the world’s most famous detectives and crime scene investigators won’t be able to help to crack this case.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 26, Page 30

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