Asia Pacific / Crime & Legal

South Korean serial killer identified after 33 years


South Korean police have identified a suspect in one of the country’s most notorious serial murder cases more than 30 years after the first of the killings, they said Thursday.

Between 1986 and 1991, 10 women between the ages of 13 and 71 were found slain in Hwasong, a city just south of Seoul.

All had been raped and all were found bound by their own stockings and clothing at sites within a radius of 3 kilometers (1.9 miles).

Authorities later determined that one of the slayings was copycat case and the man responsible was sentenced to life in prison.

More than 2 million police officers — a record for a single case — were mobilized to try to find the man who raped and murdered the women.

The police investigated some 21,000 individuals and compared the fingerprints of around 20,000 more without success.

The case inspired South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho’s 2003 hit “Memories of Murder.”

But using the latest forensic techniques to retrieve DNA from crimes committed years ago, officers have identified Lee Chun-jae, 56, as a suspect in at least three of the killings, said Ban Gi-soo of the Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency.

Samples collected from evidence, including a victim’s underwear, matched with Lee’s, the police said.

The suspect is currently serving a life sentence in prison for raping and murdering his sister-in-law in 1994, but he denies involvement in the Hwasong murders.

The statute of limitations has expired, meaning he will not be prosecuted, police added.

“I express my deep condolences to the victims and their families, as well as the Korean public, for not having been able to solve this case for a long time,” Ban told reporters.

“We will do our best to discover the truth with a sense of historical responsibility.”