Police summon friend of missing student found dead in river
Police investigating the death of a university student who disappeared shortly after drinking with his friend summoned the friend for questioning on Sunday.
Twenty-two-year-old medical student Sohn Jeong-min was found dead in the Han River six days after going missing at a riverside park in Banpo-dong of Seocho District, southern Seoul.
Sohn was allegedly drinking with his friend, whose name remains undisclosed, at Banpo Han River Park on the southern bank of the river shortly before midnight on April 24 for several hours.
Sohn’s friend said they both fell asleep at the park, and when he woke up at around 4:30 a.m. on April 25, Sohn was no longer there. He claimed he thought Sohn had gone home, so he also left.
When Sohn did not return home that morning, his parents reported him missing to the police and hung posters around the park seeking witnesses.
Sohn’s drifting corpse was found five days after his disappearance about 20 meters (66 feet) in front of the water taxi boarding platform at the Banpo park around 3:50 p.m. on April 30.
An autopsy conducted at the request of Sohn’s family revealed two cuts behind his left ear. Sohn’s father told Yonhap News on Saturday that the National Forensic Service said they were not tied to the direct cause of death.
Police said they suspect the wounds occurred as the body struck objects while drifting in the water, but added that they would investigate further based on the autopsy report.
In the absence of surveillance cameras in the area, the police have been searching for witnesses to find out whether he lost his footing and slipped, voluntarily entered the water, or ended up in the river due to foul play.
While there is no key evidence or witnesses, Sohn's father has raised suspicions about his son’s friend.
The friend told Sohn's family that he and Sohn fell on the ground while drinking, making his trousers and shoes dirty. Sohn's father asked the friend's father if he could see the shoes, but the friend's father said he had already discarded the shoes.
The friend was also in possession of Sohn's mobile phone, saying he mistook it for his own while under the influence. However, the friend’s own phone is missing. The police are conducting a forensic analysis of Sohn’s phone and also trying to find the friend’s phone.
An official from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency told reporters on Monday, “We called in the friend and his father as witnesses yesterday and investigated them,” adding that police have also taken temporary possession of his mother's mobile phone for forensic analysis.
According to police, Sunday’s investigation lasted more than nine hours, and the friend and his father were investigated separately. Police declined to divulge details of their responses, saying it was difficult to do so under the current circumstances.
A petition posted on the Blue House website on April 26 called on the authorities to investigate Sohn’s friend more thoroughly. It gained more than 160,000 signatures in less than a day.
The police said they are still seeking information to help reconstruct the situation at the time of Sohn's disappearance.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]