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South Korea’s Largest Serial Killer Cold Case Gets New Details During Court Testimony

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  • Shocking testimony by Lee Chun-Jae Tuesday detailed the grisly murders he did in the late ’80’s and early ’90s as one of South Korea’s most prolific serial killers.
  • He was testifying during the retrial of a man named Yoon, who was originally accused of killing one of Lee’s 14 victims before DNA evidence later exonerated him.
  • Yoon served all 20 years of his prison sentence and asked for a retrial after that DNA evidence linked the murders to Lee in 2019. Police have since apologized for forcing a confession from Yoon in the ’90s, and if found innocent, Yoon could be compensated for his time.
  • Lee was already in prison for life after raping and killing his sister-in-law in 1994, but won’t face any additional charges as the statute of limitations on his crimes have passed.

Justice for Some

South Koreans are finally getting some closure to a thirty-year long serial killer cold-case after Lee Chun-Jae took the stand during another trial and gave details of some of the ten murders in the Hwaseong Serial Killings.

Lee admitted to the murders in 2019 after retested DNA evidence linked him to three of the ten victims in Hwaseong, including one victim whose alleged killer had already served a prison sentence for the crime.

Those killings took place between the late ’80s to early ’90s and led to the largest police investigation in South Korean history. Over 20,000 people were investigated into the killings. They also inspired a 2003 film by Parasite director Bong Joon-ho titled “Memories of Murder.”

Video from the investigation into the Hwaseong killings. Source: KBS

In the middle of the killings, a man named Yoon was accused of murdering victim No.8, 14-year-old Park Sang-hee. South Korean law only allows his surname to be revealed, as he’s currently in a retrial over the matter. Police initially determined that Yoon’s killing was a copycat murder, and Yoon confessed to the killing in order to avoid the death penalty. He served 20 years in prison and was released in 2009 on parole.

After his trial, two more victims would appear before the killings stopped.

“I Still Don’t Understand Why I Wasn’t a Suspect”

In 2019, Lee confessed to not only killing all ten women in Hwaseong, but also to killing 14 in total and raping, or attempting to rape, 34 women. His confession led to police verifying his claims and reaching a provisional conclusion that Yoon did not kill Park Sang-hee and was falsely imprisoned.

Police also apologized to Yoon for their treatment of him, after it was revealed that he was denied sleep and abused while in custody in order to gain a false confession; a common practice in South Korea at that time period.

Yoon soon demanded a retrial to clear his name and conviction. If found innocent he can be compensated for the 20-years he spent in prison. During Yoon’s retrial, which started this week, Lee took the stand and gave grim details about his crimes, including how he killed Park. Courtroom reporters say that he was emotionless during the entire testimony.

However, Lee did apologize to the victims’ families and Lee, saying, “I am the real criminal.”

“I sincerely apologize to Mr. Yoon, who was falsely charged with the killing I committed and served prison time. I wish for the eternal rest of the victims and apologize to the bereaved families and all those involved in the cases.”

He also added during his testimony that he assumed he’d be caught early into the investigation, saying, “I didn’t think the crimes would be buried forever.” He added, “I still don’t understand (why I wasn’t a suspect). Crimes happened around me and I didn’t try hard to hide things so I thought I would get caught easily. There were hundreds of police forces. I bumped into detectives all the time but they always asked me about people around me.”

Lee’s DNA was only available to investigators because he was already serving a life sentence for raping and killing his sister-in-law in 1994. For many Koreans, the most shocking aspect of the case was that Lee would see no further punishment for his 14 killings or 34 rapes and attempted rapes.

The statute of limitations on his last crime passed in 2006.

See What Others Are Saying: (Yonhap News) (Korea Herald) (Chosun Ilbo)

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Anti-Asian Hate Crimes on the Rise in British Columbia

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  • A report given to Canadian police in Vancouver, British Columbia last week showed a 717% in hate crimes against Asians over the last year and a 97% increase in hate crimes overall.
  • Prosecutors have been urged to more seriously pursue hate crime charges, despite them being harder to prove in court.
  • The trend has been mirrored in Ontario, another Canadian province with significant Asian populations.

Massive Surges in Hate Crimes

The U.S. has struggled with anti-Asian hate crimes over the last year, especially in municipalities like New York City, which reported upwards of a 1,900% increase from one incident to 19 within the year.

However, the U.S. isn’t the only country dealing with the issue. Similar trends have been reported in Canada as well. A report given to the Vancouver police board last week found that in 2019, there were just 12 incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes reported in the city. In 2020, there was 98, which marks a 717% increase. Those numbers helped drive the stats of hate crimes in the city up 97% overall.

To be clear, crime overall has been on the rise, likely fueled by struggling local economies dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Hard To Pursue Charges

The report has caused Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth to push local prosecutors to seek more hate crime charges.

The region has failed to actually bring charges for most reported hate incidents, with the past year only seeing just one charge filed despite police evidence of such hate crimes. The issue at hand is that adding a hate crime charge makes getting a conviction much harder.

The incidents have led to a push for more strict anti-racism legislation in the province, a position that John Horgan, the British Columbian Premier, has pushed for as far back as June 2020.

British Columbia, according to an assortment of Asian-Canadian advocacy groups, has the most incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes, followed by Ontario. This is especially notable because they are the number two and number one locations of Asian populations in Canada, respectively.

See what others are saying: (Vancouver Sun) (CBC) (CTV News)

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Japan Appoints ‘Minister of Loneliness’ To Combat Rising Suicide Rates

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  • Earlier this month, Japan appointed Sakamoto Tetsushi as the country’s Minister of Loneliness, tasked with addressing rising suicide rates.
  • Suicides were declining worldwide, except in the U.S., ahead of the coronavirus pandemic but have since seen startling spikes.
  • In October, Japan reported 400 more suicide deaths than all COVID-19 related deaths in the nation until that point.
  • While suicide cases among men in Japan are higher, the country has seen a drastic increase in suicides among women, who are more likely to have unstable work that is susceptible to market disruptions from the coronavirus.

Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.

Loneliness Is a Rising Issue

Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshinori appointed Sakamoto Tetsushi as its Minister of Loneliness earlier this month.

Sakamoto is already in charge of combating Japan’s declining birthrate and regional revitalization efforts, but his new role will see him combating Japan’s rising suicide rate. Suicides were actually on the decline in Japan until the COVID-19 pandemic, which has drastically exacerbated the issue.

That trend reached a milestone in October 2020 when Japan suffered 2,153 suicides – nearly 400 more than all COVID-19 related deaths in Japan until that point. Currently, monthly suicides no longer exceed the total amount of deaths from COVID-19, as Japan faced an outbreak at the end of the year and has over 7,500 COVID-19 deaths.

Even though monthly suicides no longer outstrip total coronavirus deaths, the rate hasn’t let up. While men still make up the vast majority of suicides, there’s been a drastic increase in women taking their own lives. Between October 2020 and October 2019 there was a 70% increase in female suicides.

According to Ueda Michiko, a Japanese professor at Waseda University who studies suicides, women are particularly affected because they often have more unstable employment that is more susceptible to disruptions caused by the pandemic.

She went to tell Insider, “A lot of women are not married anymore. They have to support their own lives and they don’t have permanent jobs. So, when something happens, of course, they are hit very, very hard.”

Internationally Suicides on the Rise

Sakamoto hasn’t outlined any specific plans to combat loneliness in Japan, but he has a blueprint to work from as he’s not the world’s first Minister of Loneliness. The U.K. appointed one in 2018 after a report found more than 9 million Brits said that they often or always felt lonely.

But the job doesn’t seem very easy or desirable, as the U.K. has gone through three ministers of loneliness since then.

COVID-19 has been a massive disruption to suicide rates globally, which had actually been steadily declining for decades. The notable exception to this is the United States, which has faced increases nearly every year since 1999 adding up to almost a 30% total increase over the past two decades.

If you’re in the U.S. and feeling suicidal or have thoughts of suicide contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

For reader across the globe, here are resources in your nation.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (NDTV) (Insider)

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Thailand Pushes Marijuana as Next Cash Crop

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  • The Thai government issued a statement Sunday urging farmers to grow cannabis as a cash crop.
  • A relatively small amount of farmers currently grow the crop for the nation’s medical marijuana industry, but state-run entities are now offering to buy it for $1,500 per kilogram, which is exponentially higher than other cash crops.
  • For reference, a staple like rice goes for about $1 per kilogram.
  • While other countries in the region have followed Thailand’s footsteps in approving medical cannabis, no others allow local farmers to grow the plant.

Underlying Shift in Region

In a drastic change for marijuana policy across Asia, the Thai government made announcements on Sunday that pushed for farmers to grow marijuana as a cash crop for the country’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry.

The decision is in stark contrast to much of East and Southeast Asian marijuana policy, which often features extreme punishments for trafficking the drug, and nearly as harsh punishments for using it recreationally or for medical purposes.

Thailand was the first to approve cannabis for medical use at the end of 2018, with the law practically going into effect in 2019. Since then, according to deputy government spokesperson Traisuleee Traisoranakul, “…2,500 households and 251 provincial hospitals have grown 15,000 cannabis plants.”

“We hope that cannabis and hemp will be a primary cash crop for farmers.”

Worth Its Weight in Gold

The push for more farmers to partake in the marijuana industry comes after hospitals and the nation’s state-run pharmaceutical company found that they needed more of the plant. Currently, the government’s pharma company is hoping that their price of $1500 for 1 kilo of marijuana that contains 12% cannabidiol (CBD) will be enough incentive.

That’s considerably more than what the government pays for other staple crops, such as rice, which goes for about $1 per kilogram.

Additionally, the government also announced that marijuana can now be used in foods and beverages at restaurants as long as it comes from an approved producer. This opens the door for a tourism industry akin to Amsterdam’s coffee shops

While Thailand is leading the way when it comes to marijuana policy, other nations in the region are following in their footsteps. In 2019, South Korea approved the plant and its derivatives for medical use, and Japan has opened the door for clinical research into the drug and its compounds. Still, those nations require that THC and CBD be imported, and their use is heavily restricted.

Thailand’s move to cultivate a homegrown marijuana industry is a huge shift and will likely help the nation secure a hold in the growing industry, which the industry marketing firm Market Research Future believes will be worth over $50 billion by 2025.

See what others are saying: (Bangkok Post) (Reuters) (Chiangrai Times)

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