Not on the casePolice held their first press briefing on their investigation into the death of a 21-year-old student from Chung-Ang University Medical School. Sohn Jung-min drowned along the waters of a riverside park in Banpo, southern Seoul, on April 30. The briefing had nothing new. Police only said they were following up on how he had come to fall into the river. The conclusion of drowning as the cause of his death came from an autopsy by the National Forensic Service.
The police said they were “thoroughly checking” testimony from witnesses. Although they could not find any connection to a crime, they promised to be investigating with “all possibilities” open. The police reiterated what had been known all along. It appeared to have hastily prepared the briefing amid escalating distrust in the police investigation.
Suspicions have risen on every new finding from CCTV footage of the site where the deceased went missing for five days before his body was found. Still, the police maintained that finding the truth was their first priority and refused to comment on the many suspicions floating about. While the police kept their mouths shut, fake news spread fast. Various scenarios and theories about a planned murder went viral.
The police may have lost the so-called golden time for an investigation, which means the hours right after a tragedy. The victim’s family called for quick evidence collection and an honest probe. Still the police dithered. They only began to track the missing phone of the victim’s friend a week later. Frustrated relatives filed a petition with the prosecution asking it to take up the case. One civilian investigating team argued that the police could have easily discovered the truth if it put just one tenth of its efforts hunting down a man charged with insulting President Moon Jae-in. The police seized his phone for three months for forensic study and chased him for a year.
The Seocho District Police came under fire for lying about knowing that Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-gu was a candidate for the head of the new Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) when he assaulted a taxi driver.
If the police thoroughly investigated the suspicious death from the beginning, much of the agony of the family could have been saved.
The police must not neglect the relatives’ complaint that they cannot move on with their lives. The relatives said they will try harder to get to the bottom of the case. The police’s credibility is manifestly on the line.