While Korea does have low crime rates, just like every other country in this world, Korea is not entirely 100% safe all the time.
Here are some of Korea's unsolved crime cases, ranging from the most recent one to cases from years ago that has still not been solved.
Prepare to have chills down your spine reading this!
1. Drowning Of A Medical Student (한강 실종사건)
The recent drowning of a medical student in the Han River (한강) made headlines in Korea as people still don’t know whether it was an accident or a murder.
On 30th April 2021, the body of Son Jung Min was found in the Han River after he went missing 6 days earlier.
Initially, Jung-min’s death was thought to be an accident as on the night he went missing, he went drinking with a friend.
It was believed that he fell into the river while drunk.
Both boys were asleep at first when the friend woke up and realized that Jung Min was gone.
Jung Min’s father revealed the actions of the friend and his parents raised some questions about their possible involvement in Jung Min’s death as he found out that the friend’s family had gotten rid of his son’s shoes, which was a crucial piece of evidence.
The friend also had Jung Min’s phone with him while his own phone was missing.
All of this information was revealed to the public and the police faced increasing pressure to question the friend and his parents as suspects
New leads were revealed on 19th May 2021.
The police found 7 fishermen who saw Jung Min walk into the river, groaning subtly.
Based on the autopsy results, the cause of death was drowning.
Investigations are still ongoing.
You can watch the interview with Jung-min’s father here.
2. Disappearance Of A Newlywed Couple (신혼부부 실종 사건)
Nobody would imagine that a happy, newlywed couple would disappear without a trace, but that was the case for Choi Seong Hee and Jeon Min Geun.
On 31st May 2016, Seong Hee’s family (가족) thought that it was strange that their daughter had not contacted them for 3 days and it was out of character for her.
The couple were living together in Busan and when the police arrived, they had to enter forcefully into their home.
It was clear that the apartment had been uninhabited for a while.
Their phones and passports (여권) were missing however, there was no sign of struggle in the apartment.
What’s most baffling is that there were 21 CCTV cameras around the apartment block but none of them captured the couple leaving.
Based on the layout of the apartment block, it is nearly impossible for the couple to leave without being caught on camera.
There’s a possibility that the couple may have ran off intentionally (계획적으로), but there’s no evidence (증거) supporting this theory.
When the police tried to track the locations of the couple’s mobile phones, there was a strange discovery.
On 2nd June 2016, Min Geun’s phone was traced to Busan while Seong Hee’s phone was traced to Seoul.
Seoul and Busan are far apart, so this was odd.
The phones were never found.
Min Geun and Seong Hee are yet to be found.
To learn more about the case, watch the documentary by 그것이 알고싶다 .
3. The Infamous Mashimaro Killer (엽기토끼 살인 사건)
On 7th June 2005, a cleaner was clearing rubbish in a neighbourhood in Yangcheon when he came across a huge sack next to a rubbish bin.
He saw a pale hand sticking out of the sack and feeling that something was amiss, he touched the hand and realized that it was a human body.
A homicide detective revealed that the body was found with a black plastic bag tied over the head.
There were bite marks (자국) on the woman’s chest, 2 menstrual pads and several tissues were found inside her body.
It seemed like the victim was sexually assaulted, but no semen or DNA were found.
6 months later, the police received a call about another body.
The victim was identified and similar to the previous victim, she had a black plastic bag tied around her head and the cause of death was also asphyxiation (질식).
Law professor Yoo Seong Ho stated that there were many similarities between the 2 cases.
The women were injured in the same places and the cause of death was also the same.
On 31st May 2006, 6 months after the 2nd murder, the murderer struck again at Shinjeong Station.
This time, the murderer’s plans failed.
That day, the victim was kidnapped and brought to a dark semi-basement.
While her kidnapper went to the washroom, she made a run for the door which happened to be unlocked.
She ran to the 2nd floor of the building and hid behind a shoe rack.
There, she noticed a Mashimaro sticker on the shoe rack as well as a flower pot on top of it.
The flower pot seemed to be made by a child.
When 그것이 알고싶다 , an investigative documentary show in Korea, released the evidence and called for witnesses in 2015, a woman called in to say that she lived in the building and owned the shoe rack with the Mashimaro sticker
She said that she vividly remembers the Mashimaro sticker, as well as the flower pot that was placed on top of the shoe rack.
Her child had made it in school and she left it out to dry.
This perfectly matched the description the victim gave.
The police are investigating the case with this piece of information.
However, it still remains unsolved.
If you are interested to know more about the “Mashimaro Killer”, you can watch the documentary by 그것이 알고싶다.
4. The Murderer Who Painted His Victim’s Nails Red (빨간 매니큐어 살인 사건)
On 8th February 2004, a girl’s body was found in a pipe near a highway in Pocheon and it was identified as a high schooler who went missing on 5th November 2003.
Her body was found curled up in a large pipe, with a box covering the opening.
The police noticed that her fingernails and toenails were painted red but the victim did not have any nail polish on when she went missing.
This led the police to think that the murderer painted her nails after kidnapping her.
2 people stepped forward to assist in investigations and this finally gave investigators (수사대) an idea of what the murderer looked like.
A woman behind the cashier in a cosmetics shop remembered a young man who bought bright red nail polish.
She described him as feminine-looking with pale skin.
He was of average height and behaved in a timid manner.
With the descriptions of the murderer, the police were able to obtain a rough sketch of what the man might have looked like.
They also managed to find the suspect’s workplace.
A worker from the factory said that the drawing of in the police sketch resembled his colleague.
He said that the suspect behaved strangely at work.
Since they are involved in manual labor, their hands would get dirty all the time but the suspect always had perfectly manicured nails and washed his hands constantly.
The suspect also behaved in a “feminine manner” and would run away at the sight of bugs.
Unfortunately (아쉽게도), the investigation met a dead end because the suspect passed away before the police had the chance to question him.
Watch the documentary by 그것이 알고싶다 for more details on the case.
5. The Murderer Who Removed His Victim’s Hands (영동 여고생 살인 사건)
On 8th March 2001, the body of a high school student was found in a building that was still under construction.
The victim’s body and the area where she was discovered were free of signs of trauma and struggle and there was very little blood (피) at the scene as well.
The victim’s personal belongings were intact and no money was taken.
The only things that were missing were her hands.
The victim was identified as 18-year-old So Yun.
So Yun was working part-time on the night she was murdered.
She was last seen in the store at 8:20 PM and unfortunately, there was no CCTV footage nor eyewitnesses (목격자).
The next day, a man went to a nearby river to collect water for his car when he saw 2 white “objects” floating.
He realized that the white “objects” were hands but because they were so pale, he initially thought that they were from a mannequin.
However, he still called the police and the hands were later confirmed to be human hands and the DNA matched So Yun’s.
The police only had 2 pieces of evidence – the axe that was found at the scene, stained with So Yun’s blood and a pen that was given as a branded free gift during a car company’s promotion.
Police narrowed down the suspects to people who had access to the construction site as the public were unlikely to enter the site, especially at night.
There was a suspect but due to lack (부족) of evidence (증거) he was never arrested.
With no other leads, the case went cold.
6. The Missing Frog Boys (개구리 소년 사건)
On 26th March 1991, 5 families in Korea had to go through the grief of losing their children.
The 5 families lived in a village near Daegu and the boys from these families headed outside to play.
One of the boys was supposed to be at taekwondo (태권도) class, but it was informed that he didn’t show up.
The father went to look for him and after calling up the parents of the other 4 boys, he realised that all 5 boys were missing.
A friend informed the parents (부모님) that he had seen the boys, who told him that they were going to find a lizard’s egg.
The parents immediately knew that the boys went to the mountain to do that but they were nowhere to be seen.
They wondered if their children’s disappearance could be linked to the military base nearby but the police dismissed the claim and did not investigate further.
However, the public was convinced that the military (군) was behind the disappearance and news reports also pointed to the military (군) as the culprit.
Despite the increasing pressure, the police never investigated the military.
This made some people believe that there was a cover-up. The parents filed a lawsuit against the police for negligence, but they lost the case.
Watch CNA Insider’s documentary to learn more about the case.
The pain that the families had to go through after hearing about what happened to their loved ones’ must be indescribable, especially since it was so out of the blue.
Not knowing the reason behind their murders must be torturous and frustrating too.
Even though most of these cases happened a long time ago, we hope that investigations will continue so that justice can be served for the victims and that their families can find the closure that they rightfully deserve.
If you feel shaken by these crimes, check out these blogs about Korea's Dating Culture and 6 Cartoons That Every Korean Watched In Their Childhood to calm your heart.