A most unusual caseThe case of a missing high school student found dead eight days later remains a mystery. The police have made little progress after first pointing to a friend of her father as a key suspect. His body was also found a day after the girl was reported missing near his home. Police said it was apparent suicide after he found the authorities hot on his trail.
Revelations since then have only complicated the case. The girl’s corpse was seriously contaminated, making it impossible for forensics specialists to determine the cause of death. The body was found at the summit of a steep hill, and the victim weighed more than the suspect, which lowers the likelihood that he moved the corpse after he killed her.
Strangely, her hair was cut off. Before she went missing, she texted her friends that she was going to nearby Haenam County in South Jeolla for a part-time job that her friend’s father arranged. In the text, she said, “Report [to authorities] if anything happens to me,” ending with Korean expressions equivalent to “hehe” or a smiley face.
The case harkens back to two murders that happened nearby in 2000 and 2001. In both cases, elementary school students went missing on their way home. They all lived not too far from the suspect. Police are looking for connections between the three cases. Some believe the suspect might have killed the girl for her organs. Other grotesque theories include rape.
Authorities can only say that they are waiting for results from the National Forensic Service. Their excuse is pitiful even with the prime suspect dead. The government is about give greater authority to the police, but questions remain about whether they can live up to their role. The leadership should consider expanding the investigation currently led by local police.
JoongAng Sunday, June 30-July 1, page 34