When pups turn into lone wolves
In April 2009, two men and two women arrived at a remote guesthouse in Bukpyeong-myeon, Gangwon. The two couples looked young, probably in their 20s, not any older than 30. Their room was quiet throughout the evening, and there were no signs that they were cooking or having dinner.
Eventually, the owner knocked on the door, but they did not respond. The door was sealed with tape on the inside and when it was forced open, only the ashes of a coal briquette remained. The foursome was dead. But that was only the beginning. A series of group suicides followed, next on April 15, in Hwangseong; April 17, in Inje; April 22, in Hongcheon; and April 23, in Yanggu County. They shared information and prepared in advance. Their moves were coordinated.
This suicide alliance was formed in an online group on a portal site. Founded by a 21-year-old man, it turned these suicidal outsiders into activists. I was lucky to meet this man during the investigation. He had dropped out of high school and did not leave his house for four years. The Internet was the only channel on which he communicated with the outside world. He played games, watched videos and founded an online group. While 21 people attempted suicide and 12 died, all he did was facilitate the group.
This suicide group may be the origin of “lone wolf crimes” in Korea. Now, five years later, another lone wolf may have made himself known. The 18-year-old, identified as Kim, hasn’t harmed anyone yet, but we know he crossed the border into Syria to likely join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a violent jihadist group.
These lone wolves, it turns out, are actually increasing. They are captivated by the claim that small errors can overthrow an entire system. They aim to shed their vulnerabilities and join a network that will presumably help them to become powerful. They are desperate to live a meaningful life.
Jodi Picoult’s “Nineteen Minutes” tells the story of a lone wolf who goes on a shooting rampage at his school. It details not just how he became a loner, but also how society destroyed him.
The parents of the man who founded the suicide club in 2009 divorced when he was 7 years old. They left the boy with his grandmother and disappeared. The grandmother had to make a living somehow, and when no one came home to care for him, he embraced loneliness. After he was arrested, I spoke with the prosecutor on the case. When I asked if the man was having a hard time in jail, the prosecutor replied, “No, actually, he is eating better and has put on some weight because there are people around him. Now he wants to live again.”
The author is a national news writer
for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 23, Page 31
by KANG IN-SIK