Identity theft suspect longed for the ‘perfect’ life

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Identity theft suspect longed for the ‘perfect’ life

The prosecution has indicted a 32-year-old woman on Dec. 31 on embezzlement and fraud charges after she reportedly stole the identity of another young female - because she envied her for having a happy life.

According to authorities, the suspect, Park Mi-hee - a name she had adopted just a few years earlier - was arrested by Gangseo District Police last month over suspicions that she was engaging in fraudulent activity.

It was identify theft not for financial gain - but to become someone else.

The woman’s real life reads something like a gilded tragedy.

By her account, the 32-year-old’s parents divorced when she was young. Her mother disappeared. When she was in middle school, her father took her older brother on a business trip, during which they died in an airplane crash.

The airline compensated Park with hundreds of millions of won, which turned out to be a cruel windfall for a lonely teenage girl.

Her mother returned to her life - but only after the money was awarded her.

Park’s mother suffered from depression and living with her was difficult.

Park went to study in the United States, but the situation didn’t improve after she returned. She found herself once again grieving for her father and brother. She eventually married an accountant, but the union was an uneasy one: Park’s mother found fault with her husband for having come from a modest background.

So her mother introduced her to a man who came from a wealthy family and when Park’s husband found out, he filed a lawsuit against her, alleging adultery. The two eventually divorced.

Afterward, Park filed a petition to change her name. She wanted a brand new identity.

She took on her current name, Park Mi-hee - her birth name was not verified - but she saw little change in her life and still longed for a new one.

In the summer of 2009, Park had picked up a plastic bag in the bathroom of a fitness center in Mok-dong, Yangcheon District. It contained the driver’s license and national identification card of college student named Choi Hee-jin.

To Park, the young music major appeared to be bright - and leading the perfect life. So instead of returning the belongings, she held on to them.

Last year, Park was cleaning her room and rediscovered the ID cards that she had hidden, that of the bright girl who played the cello.

Until high school, Park had dreamed of pursuing music, though she eventually majored in English.

Park began stalking Choi Hee-jin over social networking services and managed to figure out her email ID and password, which was based on her national registration card number.

As time went on, she grew more and more obsessed with digging into Choi’s life. She snooped into dozens of email exchanges between Choi and her father, remembering that she, too, once had a father like that.

By then, she was determined to become Choi Hee-jin, erasing her old existence, which she felt had mostly been filled with depression and loss.

Park began to assume Choi’s identity, going so far as to seek copies of government-issued national registration documents, as well as her school report cards and graduation certificates.

She applied for a new driver’s license from the Road Traffic Authority using the girl’s old driver’s license.

She explained the difference in her appearance as being due to plastic surgery.

The move emboldened Park, and she began using the driver’s license and ID to open debit cards in Choi’s name, syncing them with her smartphone.

Then the suspect took out a 6 million won ($5,450) loan from a non-banking institution - not because she needed the money, but because she could get away with it.

However, Park had not taken into account that the loan notice would be sent to Choi’s home address, where the girl’s mother received it last November. She reported the situation to the police.

The police were eventually able to track Park via CCTV footage and fingerprints, and apprehended her in December at her home.

“I was so jealous of Hee-jin,” Park said during questioning at the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office. “Hee-jin’s life looked so happy.”


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