Korea’s most notorious serial killer. In the first of four parts, we cover Yoo Young-Chul’s tumultuous early life in an urbanizing Seoul and his first string of killings–targeting wealthy seniors in standalone houses near churches. 

We’d put off tackling this topic because we wanted to do it right. Our research is based on Korean language articles and academic papers analyzing his warped mind. We’ve uncovered so much information that this will take us four episodes.

BTW–The English Wikipedia page is very inaccurate.

[UPDATE Oct. 24, 2021 from Joe]
I watched the Netflix series “The Raincoat Killer.” After delving into this obsessively for over a month, it was like watching the movie based on the book I’d read. There are some details we differ on, and I believe the part where Yoo Young-chul was caught was heavily skewed towards the police’s official account. In that same episode they also admit that they were falsifying records, so it’s difficult to know which account to believe. 

Our podcast series is based on Korean news accounts, Korean academic papers, and from Korean blogs and writers who were also obsessed with this story. We hope that if you listen to our series that you take both in and get a more well-rounded picture about the state Seoul was in at that time.

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NOTE: Officially we’ll spell it Yoo Young-chul because that’s the spelling used in Wikipedia and in the English media

Yoo Young-Chul Map

We were able to trace the locations of many events in this story. The locations for much of this isn’t publicly available. We figured them out by freezing screenshots of news reports that showed the addresses, by comparing photos from bloggers, and even by tracing down a location based on a business card from a restaurant in the same building.

Most of these places have been demolished.

Beginnings and Targeting Rich Churchgoers

  • One of the most notorious serial killers
    • Also known as the “Raincoat Killer 레인 코트 킬러”
      • Not connected to the “Rainy Thursday” murderer, who was also active around the same time closeby
    • Movie The Chaser
    • NOTE: We are not glorifying him. If anything, we wish to recognize the victims
      • These murders do not end with the murder itself, but affect the victim’s family, relatives, and even the residents of the area where the incident occurred, and more broadly, society as a whole.
      • Among murder crimes, serial murder, in particular, does not destroy the relationships of several people involved, but destroys many relationships by one person, and its impact is far greater than that of a simple murder. 
      • Suggestion that Seoul’s rapid urbanization broke the traditional ties between people who live in society (“solidarity between its members is weak”)


Yoo Young-Chul as a youth
Yoo Young-Chul as a youth
  • Born April 18, 1970, Gochang, Jeollabuk-do
  • Had a fraternal (sororal?) sister and two older brothers
    • Trivia: O type blood
  • Father was a Vietnam vet
    • Couldn’t maintain income after returning
    • Despite this, he tried to maintain two households between his wife and girlfriend
    • Alcoholic, poor health
    • Abused his son with in a bad mood and when drunk
      • Used hammers
  • Mother considered killing Yoo Young-chul because of hardships
  • Father left his wife and remarried when Yoo was seven
    • Note that in Korea, fathers tended to keep the children in divorces
    • Moved to Seoul (Gongdeok 2-dong)
      • Lived in an old wooden building built during the colonial period
        • 10 pyeong with two rooms, kitchen, cramped bathroom
        • Worked in construction sites
      • It was a “dal-dong” neighborhood in the ‘80s
        • Unlicensed houses
        • Scant water and electricity
    • Father gambled and drank away the money
    • Raised by stepmother, who was also violent
  • Started elementary school (1978)
    • Teachers said he was ordinary and obeyed the rules, hard worker
  • (June 12, 1985) In middle school, father died when hit by a drunk driver
    • Rest of siblings moved in with mother
    • He came out of his shell then (likely b/c father died)
      • Abuse was over
  • Bullied in middle school
  • High School
    • Talented in art and sports (track and gymnastics)
    • Liked to sing and organized a group called “Singal Tree”
    • Wanted to become a painter and tried to get into Anyang Arts High School but failed
      • Colorblind
      • (What is it with failed painters becoming monsters?)
  • Enrolled in K High School of Technology
    • Started changing
      • Twin sister was the opposite
        • Top ten in her class
    • Stole a record from Sewoon Shopping Center and felt no remorse
    • Had a leadership role at the school and abused students
    • Obsessed with an older woman who lived near the school
      • Is this the wealthy house near his home that he said was the source of his envy?
  • (Aug 23, 1988) Sent to juvie for trespassing at night
    • Told friends he had been working in Jeju
  • (April 1991) Going to courthouse ← apocryphal?
    • On his way to court, he came across a wooden cross and picked it up. Believed that this was a “revelation from Heaven.”
    • He believed that he would be given probation
    • It kept looking more and more that he would be released on probation, but he was sentenced to prison
      • “There is no God.” Broke the cross and threw it on the floor.
  • (June 1991, 21 years old) Married Hwang Mo, a skin masseuse at a cosmetics store (not THAT kind of massage)
    • Rescued her while she was being chased by debtors
  • (Sept 1991) Sentenced to 10 months in prison
    • Stole 230,000 won and a neighbor’s guitar
    • Released (Sept 21, 1993)
    • Exempt from military
  • Worked as a studio photographer
    • At night he’d pose as a police officer
      • Extorted money from shopkeepers who sold porn
      • Kind of the start of his moral code delusion
  • (1993-1995) Treatment of mental disorders caused by “mental lobe epilepsy”
  • (1994 summer) Released
    • Son had been born
  • (1994) Second brother was distressed over his blindness and committed suicide at 32 by jumping into the Han
    • Made him hate the world and want to kill someone out of a vague sense of revenge <–Sweeney Todd moment
  • (April 1995, Bucheon Branch of Incheon District Court) Fined 3 million won for selling negatives
  • Sentenced also for impersonating a public official
  • (May 19, 1999) Released from Anyang Prison
  • (March, 2000) Arrested for impersonating a minor and raping a teenage girl in a car 
    • Faked an epileptic fit and was hospitalized. Tried to escape.
    • (Oct 2000) Sentenced to three years and six months
    • (Dec 24, 2000) Wife divorced him 
    • sent to Jeonju Prison 
  • So by then, 14 thefts and sexual assault

Yoo Young-chul
  • (2000 filed as soon as he was arrested, May 2002 final) Wife divorced him 
    • He was spending more time in prison than he was at home
    • People say this is the point where he broke
      • Stopped speaking
      • Avoided people
      • Planned to kill his ex-wife and his son
      • Instead decided to kill others
      • Stated he would murder people living around a church
      • He even wrote the number of people he planned to kill on his prison wall
      • Vowed to study other serial killers to perfect his methods
        • Inspired by Jeong Du-yeong’s serial murders in Busan
          • Killed wealthy people in Busan, Ulsan, and South Gyeongsang Province (June 1999-April 2000)
  • (Sept. 11, 2003) Released from Jeonju Prison
    • Lived with mother in Seoul
    • He did see his ex-wife and child one more time at his request
      • Was planning to kill her and his son
      • When he saw his son’s eyes, he changed his mind and decided to kill only his wife
      • But even then he couldn’t do it, so he looked for surrogates
    • Got a phone with the number 1818
      • Obsessed with that number, as that was his internet ID and password as well
      • ASIDE: He likes to come across as more intelligent than everyone. But how childish to make your phone, ID, and password after a curse word? And how stupid and uncareful (something he took pride in) to make such and easy to crack ID and password?
    • Became fascinated with murder
    • Killed dogs to experiment
      • Brought them up on a secluded mountain
      • Stabbed the dog
      • Was put off by the blood, dog’s hollering, and squirming
      • Decided it was best to hit victims in the head first
  • Later that month, first murder
  • Most victims were bludgeoned 
    • usually with a hammer or similar tool) then stabbed
      • 4kg Hammer
        • Found at a nearby construction site
        • Replaced long handle and inserted a 30cm stick
          • Used silicone to fill in the gaps
      • 15cm Jackknife bought for W30,000
      • Gloves 세무장갑 + 모장갑 
        • Suede gloves – Good for climbing fences
        • Coated work gloves – Good grip for the murder weapons
      • Black shoulder bag
    • He started killing wealthy elderly (men and women), often in their homes, before moving on to raping and murdering women (often masseuses/prostitutes, usually in their 20s)
    • Victims were bludgeoned or raped or both before being murdered; several were dismembered and cannibalised 
    • Victims ranged between early 20s and mid-80s 
  • Lived with mother and sister in Gongdeok

1 | 2003.09.24 Sinsa-dong @10:10am, Two-story house near Somang Church

Sinsa-dong house
Sinsa-dong house, which has since been demolished
Professor Lee
Professor Lee
  • Sookmyung University Professor Emeritus Lee (73) and wife Lee (68)
  • Chosen when he saw a person getting out of a gray Grandeur car and entering the house
    • He was envious of houses with sunny gardens
    • Strong desire to take from those who had what he didn’t
    • Targeted areas around churches to show that God wouldn’t protect them
    • Chose morning times when people are at work and mostly elderly are at home
  • Approached the house, wearing the suede gloves
    • Observed for ten minutes
    • Climbed the fence silently and landed in the gravel part of the garden
    • Changed to coated work gloves
    • Used the knife to open the door
    • Checked to see the occupancy
      • No one on the 2nd floor
      • Occupants in the living room
  • Entered the living room
    • Professor Lee gets up
    • Yoo tells him to sit down
    • Prof. Lee stands up in a panic
    • Yoo stabs him in the neck 
    • Mrs. Lee freaks out
      • Thinks he is just a robber and pleads for her life, taking money from the closet
      • Yoo: “Do you think I’m doing this for money?”
      • Hits Mrs. Lee with the hammer 3x on top of the head
      • Finishes off Prof. Lee with the hammer and hits him with the hammer 5x
Sinsa-dong crime scene
Sinsa-dong crime scene
Sinsa-dong crime scene layout
Sinsa-dong crime scene layout
  • Yoo wiped everything down
    • Locked the front door and exited the main gate
    • Realized he had left his knife
    • Climbed the wall and kicked the door in, smashing the doorknob
    • Retraced his steps and retrieved his knife
    • To make it look like a robbery, he trashed the closet–BUT he didn’t take any money

2 | 2003.10.09 Gugi-dong @10:40am House near Yeonggwang Church

News footage during the investigation
News footage during the investigation
  • Hangeul Day but everyone went to work–not a day off
  • Originally targeted a different house, one of a lawyer who was also a minister
  • Same method
    • Gloves, wall, front door
    • Elderly woman Kang Mo (85)
      • Struck in the head in the bathroom then stabbed
      • Staggered out
      • Hit again
    • Daughter-in-law Lee (60) came down
      • Yoo threatened with the knife
      • Sat her in the living room sofa
      • “If you scream, I will kill you. Who else is upstairs?”
      • She said her husband and son
      • Yoo tells her to bow her head, and she doesn’t
      • Kicks in the stomach and stands over her, kills with hammer
    • Grandson (35) comes down chuckling
      • Yoo drags him back upstairs
      • Man was autistic and didn’t listen
      • Shaved his head?
      • Murders with the hammer
      • He tended to be over the top and beat them until the brains oozed out and was more brutal towards men
    • Searches for husband
      • Heard a dog barking on the way to the basement
      • Fled after making it look like a robbery on the 2nd floor
      • Tried to make it look like someone tried to break into the safe
        • To prevent the police from connecting it to the other murder
    • The police were able to get shoe prints, and they started a database search
      • The media started connecting it to the Sinsa-dong case, but the police denied it because they didn’t want the public to panic

3 | 2003.10.16 Samseong-dong @12:30pm–One week later) House near Happy Church 

Samseong-dong house
Samseong-dong house
  • 40-9 Samseong-dong
  • Same method of breaking in
  • Threatens Mrs. Yoo Mo (60)
  • Drags her into the bathroom and strikes her with the hammer
  • This was later than the two other times, and it seemed he was in a hurry
  • Mrs. Yoo was discovered by her son around 1:30 and was rushed to  Samsung Medical Center but did not survive
News footage during investigation
News footage during investigation
  • Lots of footprints this time, and it was connected to the previous murders
  • Media goes nuts
    • Police investigated family members and friends
    • Were stubborn that it wasn’t the same person, nitpicking over details

4 | 2003.11.18 Hyehwa-dong @11am) House near Hyehwa Cathedral

  • Same method of breaking in and climbed the gas pipe
  • Checked for occupancy on the second floor
  • Finds Ms. Bae (53), the housekeeper
    • Drags her to the main bedroom
  • Grandfather Kim (87) and child are in the bedroom
  • Grandfather is startled and tries to get up, but has a bad back
    • Yoo took advantage of that and killed him with the hammer
  • Ms. Bae holds the child and screams
    • Yoo rips away the child and hits the policeman with the hammer, who lies on the floor screaming
    • Brings the child to the living room, who was crying, and wraps him in a blanket to muffle the screams, almost to suffocation
    • He returned to the bedroom and finished the job
  • Yoo tried to make it look like a robbery and tried to open the safe on the second floor with a pickaxe and pruning shears he found in the house
    • Stuck the shears in the gap and struck them with the pickaxe
      • Shears splintered
    • Split the knuckle of right middle finger on the shears
      • Tried to stop the bleeding with tissue paper and Scotch tape
    • Decided to burn the house to cover the blood evidence
      • Put newspaper and clothes around Ms. Bae and lit them with the lighter in the kitchen
  • He waited outside to see if the house would burn down, which it didn’t
    • Fire destroyed the bodies and the first floor bedroom and other parts of the house
    • Daughter-in-law rescued the child
  • Police were able to get CCTV footage
    • Saw the back of the perpetrator leisurely walking, wearing a sweater from the victim’s closet to hide the blood on his clothes
      • New tech found he was 168 cm tall 
    • Also able to figure out what shoes he wore from footprints


  • Distributed 10,000 leaflets for someone wearing “buffalo” shoes
    • Yoo cut up his shoes and threw them away

Next week:

Serial Killer Yoo Young-Chul, part 2:
The Sinchon Murders