Tainted soju leaves one dead, one hospitalized

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Tainted soju leaves one dead, one hospitalized

One man died and another remained in critical condition Thursday after the soju bottle from which the two had been drinking was found to contain a highly toxic pesticide.

The men, both in their 60s, had been drinking Wednesday evening at a gathering at a senior center in Cheongsong County, North Gyeongsang, according to police.

The bottle was found to have been laced with methomyl, a substance dangerous to humans and animals that has been prohibited in Korea since 2012.

Thirteen local residents, including the two victims, surnamed Park and Heo, were reported to have drank together that night from a bottle of soju.

However, the two men, shortly after opening their second bottle, began complaining of chest pains just before collapsing and losing consciousness.

Police estimate the incident occurred at about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday.

“When I got to the scene, both of them were down on the floor, one with his eyes closed and the other with his open. Both had foam in their mouths,” said a 70-year-old county resident. “Some people were trying to force them to vomit by sticking their fingers down their throats.”

Officers from Cheongsong Police Precinct arrived at the center at 10:11 p.m., according to a police official, four minutes after residents called 119.

The two men were hospitalized Wednesday night in Andong, North Gyeongsang, and Park died around 8 a.m. Thursday morning.

A special investigation team is currently questioning residents and pesticide sellers in the area.

The case bears a striking resemblance to an incident in July, when six elderly women at a community center in Sangju, North Gyeongsang, were found to have been poisoned with methomyl. The women had all drunk from the same 1.5-liter soda bottle that had been laced with the pesticide, which killed two of them.

The perpetrator, an 82-year-old woman, was convicted of murder in December and given a life sentence.

BY KIM YOUN-HO, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr ]

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