The police didn’t catch Yoo Young-Chul. Seoul’s criminal underground took control while the authorities bumbled. Catching him wasn’t the end of it.

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Arrest and Trial

  • How Yoo Young-Chul made an error
    • He was evading suspicion by calling businesses with different names
    • Turned out that it was the same business owner (Mr. Noh, a gangster) running shady companies under different names and numbers
    • (July 13, 2004) Noh believed it was strange that 임미연 (27, from Sillim-dong), who answered a previous call and took the job, had not been heard from
      • Believed she had been kidnapped
        • She was the last person Yoo had murdered
      • Noticed that it was the third time a woman had gone missing
        • And they were all answering calls from a number 6523 (or 5834)
      • Contacted owners of 보도방 nearby
        • Woman from Gangnam was also missing after a call from 6523
        • Figured out that 6523 belonged to the phone of the deceased mother of 우구연 (28), who disappeared on June 25th
          • So whoever this is, also stole her phone
      • Contacted other owners and told them to call him if anyone with that number calls
      • Contacted Inspector Yang from Mobile Investigation Unit
      • How he knew him
        • Met while conducting a drug investigation four years before

“Brother, what are you doing these days?”

“It works, man. I’m going on summer vacation next week. Are you okay too?”

“By the way, brother… .”
“Two days ago, a woman from the press room in Yeongdeungpo went out to receive guests and then lost contact.”
Mr. Noh’s next words were firmly lodged in Yang’s ears.

“The car I borrowed from a friend was abandoned in Hwagok-dong. With the ignition on.” 

  • There’s a history of people kidnapping escorts and selling them to the countryside
  • Yang then went to bed
  • (July 15, @2am) Receives a phone call from Yoo Young-chul
    • Contacted seniors and colleagues 
    • Contacted Inspector Yang
      • “Brother, ‘6523’ is out!”
    • Five people piled in a car with a woman as bait
    • Mr. Noh called Inspector Yang, whom he knew from the Mobile Investigation Unit
  • They split up. Woman in taxi. The rest in three cars following the taxi. Head to the back of the Sinchon Grand Mart off of Sinchon Rotary
  • The men were waiting in a nearby alley
    • 6523 called and changed the meeting place to a park 20 minutes away by foot
      • Yang moved to the park
    • 6523 then called to complain that he saw the woman, and that she was too tall
    • 6523 proceeded to call other 보도방
    • Yang was running around parks and alleys, grabbing all men talking on their phones and checking their numbers
      • Since it’s an entertainment district, there were a lot
      • It was a hot night–30 degrees
    • 6523 said he liked the third woman and told her to come to the alley behind Grand Mart
    • Mr. Noh found a suspicious man talking on a phone behind a power pole in the alley
    • Contacted Inspector Yang
      • Yang was too far away to make it in time
      • Said to ask the nearby patrol unit for help
  • After 10 minutes, Yoo Young-chul appeared
    • The 보도방 men approached him 
    • Yoo was calm while they started body searching him
      • Yoo said, ““반팔 입은 사람이요? 이리로 갔어요”
    • They thought maybe he was just an accomplice
    • Yoo resisted
    • Sogang District Inspector General Kim Seong-gi tried to handcuff him
    • Yang rushed in, put him on the ground and cuffed him
    • They put him into a car
    • As they were about to leave, he tried to chew on something
      • They thought they were pills, and he was trying to kill himself
      • For ten minutes, they scuffled to try to get him to open his mouth, beating him
      • One man got two spoons and pried his mouth open, retrieving nine business card-sized ‘business trip massage’ flyers
      • A phone fell out on the floor – The last four digits were “6523”
    • They said that Yoo wore a mask in public that week because his mouth got bloodied
    • The men interrogated him in the car
    • Agency officials later got whiny with the press: “It’s true that the massage parlor people caught Mr. Yoo first. But isn’t it also true that we sent our man?”
  • Transported from Seogang District Police Box to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s Mobile Investigation Unit (now the Metropolitan Investigation Unit)
  • At the time he was just being treated as a thief
    • Faked a limp to trick the police into letting their guards down
    • Only possessions were the phone, a woman’s “Avatar” watch, and a wallet with 1,800 won and a trinket
    • The phone?
      • “I picked it up,” but later said, “I got it out of a car with the window open two days ago.” 
  • It was only a few hours after arriving at the Mobile Police Unit that Yoo realized that those men weren’t police. 
    • They stayed there for three days, participating in the investigation
    • They were also the ones who verified that he had a history of impersonating police officers
      • Feb 9th incident where he extorted money and handcuffed the woman and pimp
    • There was a 50 million won award for the arrest of Hyehwa-dong killer
      • They gave 5 million won each to five people
      • The woman who acted as bait didn’t get anything
      • The police swiftly tried to cover up that the 보도방 owners played such a significant role 
  • Interrogated by Nam Gyu-jeong and Kang Dae-won

When investigating the whereabouts of the missing women, Yoo Young-cheol asked, “Who are you looking for?”

“Where did you sell it?”

“If it’s a kidnapping case, it’s not me.”

“Then what are you?”

“me? I killed… .”

“Do you think this kid is playing a joke?”

  • Came across as a joke to confuse the interrogators
  • Inspector Choi called Kang out
    • Gave him a golden cord from Yoo’s wallet–a woman’s anklet

“Where did you get this?”

“I bought it for 1,000 won at Cheonggyecheon. It’s just for decoration.”

“Hey, can’t you see this? It says ’18K’. Isn’t this what women wear? If this is really worth 1,000 won, go buy it with me. Let’s buy 100 of them and sell them to make a lot of money. Now, thanks to you, I will quit the police and be like Bong Kim Seon-dal.”

At Captain Kang’s interrogation, Yoo Young-cheol bowed his head. I thought, ‘Now this guy is going to burn.’ It took more time for the real owner of the cell phone, the identity of the missing women, and Yoo Young-cheol’s criminal record to come out. However, an unexpected word came out of Yoo Young-chul’s mouth.

“I’ll explain the anklet later, and I’ll start with the Sinsa-dong murder case… .”

Yoo Young-cheol confessed, “I killed 26 people, from an elderly couple in Sinsa-dong last September to a woman in a 보도방 who disappeared two days ago.”

“I’ll confess to all the crimes, so just give me an hour. Please call my mother.”

“Mom, I killed a lot of people… .”

  • (July 16 @12:05 a.m.) Suddenly had an epileptic fit
    • Detective removed handcuffs
    • Suggested they go to Bongwonsa Temple to dig up the remains
    • Was following the detective in the hallway to go to another office (2nd floor)
    • Easily escaped the police station
  • Doesn’t run far
    • Goes to his house and destroys the evidence
    • (1 a.m.) Calls mother and sister to go to his house and clean up
      • Police couldn’t find him because he had the wrong address on his ID
      • Detective Sang-joong Kim (currently the head of the intelligence team at Yongsan Police Station), who was a member of the 3rd Division of the Raiders at the time, identified Yoo Young-cheol’s movement with his colleagues and searched the area thoroughly
    •  Goes to a motel near Yeongdeungpo Market
      • Bought 360 sleeping pills (doxylamine) at a pharmacy
        • Police say he was planning to commit suicide
        • But it’s speculated that even Yoo knew that the worst those pills could do was give lots of diarrhea
    • (11:40 p.m.) Mobile patrol team recognize Yoo at a crosswalk at the roundabout in between Yeouido and Yeongdeungpo Station 
      • In front of Brothers Pharmacy, Yeongdeungpo-dong 3-ga
    • Arrest him 11 hours after he had escaped
  • Re-arrested and interrogated
    • He talked with them for an hour before killing them, asking about their personal lives
    • Forced them to leave weird messages about quitting or being kidnapped
    • Officially didn’t have sex with them for fear of leaving DNA
      • But then he said he did with the later ones–only wanting beauties
    • Changed his story many times
      • Confessed to killing 26 people
      • Said he kept a diary on his computer, but police never found it
      • Went on a hunger strike
        • “Expert” believed it was because he was slowly awakening from his fantasy state
      • Criticism that Korean police rely to heavily on confessions and not forensics
      • “Yoo Young-cheol said, ‘Brother, if there is an unsolved case, I will take responsibility and solve it. “Don’t worry about the special,” he said. After that, Yoo began to brag about his crimes.

  • Apartment searched
      • Media noted how clean and orderly it was
        • Yes, the media was allowed inside on July 19th, just four days after Yoo was re-arrested
        • Jackets and dress shirts neatly organized
        • Potted plant, fish bowl
        • One psych expert on serial killers who interview Yoo and others noted that he had OCD
          • Only the bathroom was the “threshold of death” (Yoo’s words)
      • Black scrapbook on his bed
        • Newspaper articles and personal notes
        • Just random stuff about furniture, luxury cars, computers, pop music
          • Obsessively neat and notated
      • Sketchbook 
      • Movies that were found in Yoo’s computer desk
        • Public Enemy 공공의 적 (2002)
          • Cat & mouse between detective and serial killer who kills people after minor slights, including his own parents
        • Very Bad Things (1998)
          • Includes killing a stripper/prostitute and security guard, dismembering them, and burying them in the desert
          • Character faked a limp
          • Roger Ebert: Very Bad Things is “not a bad movie, just a reprehensible one”
        • Normal Life (1996)
          • Cop falls in love with a psycho and marries her. Loses his job and robs banks to appease her.
    • Gruesome moments
      • Severed head fell off the towel rack
      • Headless body fell on him
      • “Do you know what was the most terrifying moment for me to commit this atrocity? The moment I was surprised to the point that my hair stood up to the bone is incomprehensible to others, but that was the moment when my son got a call while he was cutting the body. Hearing my bewildered voice, I was not surprised, but when he asked, ‘Are you not recovering from a cold yet, Dad?’ He said, ‘Dad, I know everything. Don’t do that.’ I thought he knew, and it gave me chills.”
      • At the same time, Yoo Young-cheol was nervous about his son’s phone call, so he couldn’t even clean up the body, so he ate ‘rice’ instead of ‘ramen’.
    • Did he eat the livers of his victims as he claimed?
      • “Yoo testified that in order to cleanse his spirit, he ate some of the internal organs from the bodies of four of his victims. We have yet to secure evidence of this, however.”
        • Or he did it to cure his epilepsy
          • “I thought I couldn’t die from epilepsy, so I cut out the livers from the corpses of the four victims who had been murdered since mid-June and ate them right away,”
          • His father was killed in a car accident and brother committed suicide
        • “Among the people I killed, six bodies don’t have some internal organs. I have a bronchus disease, so, I asked the people their blood type. If their blood was type O, I ate their internal organs. After I read oriental medicine books, I also ate other organs out of curiosity.” In relation to mutilation murder cases, Yoo said, “At first, I ground the bodies in a mill, but I gradually felt it was unnecessary. I was scared of chopping bodies in silence, so I worked while listening to music.”
          • No mixer found
          • Some say he may have grown tired of this and threw all that away
        • It was said that he ate livers
        • An official from the investigation said, “Yoo Young-cheol believed the absurd folklore that the human liver was effective against epilepsy and leprosy.”
        • Jijon Family ate body parts to increase courage
        • An investigative official said, “Yoo Young-cheol said, ‘I tried to eat brain water, but the taste was fishy'”.
      • No proof
      • Four corpses had no organs
      • May have been lying to create a myth around him
      • “I hope that my notoriety will be widely known by mobilizing people’s imagination for what I actually did. I want to be recorded as a hero in the criminal world.”
    • BUT…
      • There were three unidentified bodies found that were even more decomposed than the rest, so he possibly could have killed others during his gap period
      • He was also traveling around Busan and Gwangju around that time
      • Gave jewelry to his girlfriend Kim. Said he found a shopping bag lying around.
      • There may still be body remains around Bongwonsa Temple
  • The circus following the arrest.
    • Top news at the time
      • “I hope that women do not act recklessly and the wealthy are awakened.”
      • At Yeongdeungpo prison, he asked guards: “Did I look good on television news?”
      • He told police officers, “I know that the National Assembly is discussing the abolition of the death penalty.” Police took the comment as a boast from Mr. Yoo that he would never be executed.
      • Within a week an internet fan club started “Coolest Murderer Yoo Young-chul Cafe”
        • People joined the site just to leave insulting messages to the owner

  • While police were transporting Yoo, a bereaved family member approached to attack him
      • Ms. Jeong (50) Mother of the Imun-dong victim
      • “I am the mother of the Imun-dong victim. My daughter would not be dead if you guys had captured that man earlier.”
      • One of the detectives didn’t know who she was and saw her umbrella as a weapon
      • Kicked her down the flight of steps, and it made a loud noise
      • Police: “At that time, the officer was holding Yoo with both hands, and when the woman came running out from the photographer line, he used his feet to restrain her. He did not intend to inflict violence.”
      • Escorting officers claimed it was a set-up by Fuji Tv
        • Asked Ms. Jeong to run up and remove Yoo’s hood (which they denied)
      • Later apologized to her and her husband
        • Said the officer would face disciplinary measures
  • Trial
    • Indicted on charges of sexual violence, rape and murder, abandonment, fleeing, burgning of a vehicle, concealing of a body
      • Said he’d refuse to return to court
        • Then turned to the audience behind him and said, “I would like to apologize to the victims for what I have done. I am sorry.”
      • Boasted that he had no intention of stopping. He was just beginning.
      • When he returned to court two weeks later… 
        • Recanted his confession about the Imun-dong case because he said he was coerced into it by a promise from the police that they would send his son to university
        • They were telling him he’d need to return
        • “You force me to appear at the next trial. I’m not saying that I will think about it again, but I’m saying that I will not appear next time.”
          • Judge said it was not Yoo’s choice
          • Moved to adjourn
        • Jumped over his seat, ran to judges, jumped onto a desk to climb to the bench
          • Slipped and fell
        • He almost succeeded. Twenty Officers and guards barely got to him in time.
        • He was only handcuffed, not in shackles–this despite that he had a history of escaping
        • Judges jumped out of their seats and didn’t sit back down until he was dragged from the courtroom
      • October 4th hearing – Didn’t show
        • Tried to commit suicide in early October 3rd before he was scheduled to return to court
          • Left two suicide notes
          • Tried to hang himself with electrical wire from the wall fan in his cell
          • Guards stopped him
        • An official at Seoul Prison said, “Mr. Yoo was adamant that he did not want to appear in court, so we could not force him.”
          • Very different from the judge who earlier said it was not up to Yoo
      • October 25 hearing
        • Tried to attack a spectator at another hearing who heckled him
        • 10 guards broke it up
        • Two wooden chairs were damaged
        • Signed a statement that he would stop acting up before being brought back in
        • Faced victims’ families: “They were not normal women. They deserved to be caught by me.”
      • Was found guilty of 20 murders, aggravated punishment for certain crimes (theft, etc)
      • But wasn’t found guilty for the murder of Lee Moon-dong (Feb 6, 2004)<–THE DAY I LANDED IN KOREA!!!!
        • Another murder that he claimed
        • Later revealed that it was another serial killer, Jeong Nam-gyu
    • (Dec 13, 2004) Sentenced to death
      • Looked the judge in the face
      • (June 2005) Death sentence was upheld by Supreme Court
    • Gov’t compensated families up to 10 million won each
      • (1988) Law passed promising the gov’t would compensate families for crimes if the criminal is unable
        • “The state shall provide benefits to victims as it is responsible for not properly protecting the safety of its citizens.”
        • Also includes if police can’t identify the criminal
  • Currently in Seoul Detention Centre
    • (also where Lee Jae-yong of Samsung is)
    • Shows no remorse
      • Tendency to blame others for his actions
      • According to the profiler, he’s arrogant in his interviews
        • Thinks himself the most intelligent in the room
    • Reigns as king in prison
      • First entered the cell, looking at fellow inmates, he declared, “I will surely kill one gangster and one economic offender and be executed”
        • Hearsay that one of the gangsters sniffed and said, “I’ll punish Yoo Young-chul.” 
        • Always 4 or 5 guards around Yoo to prevent any interactions with gangsters
      • Intimidates prison guards
        • “Don’t you know I’m a psycho?”, “Even if I kill you (to the prison guard), I’m (already) sentenced to death.” 
      • Childish behavior
        • Destroying flower gardens
        • Snatching the toupees off of guards?
      • Uses violence against inmates
    • Started prison riots
    • (Nov 2014) Confirmed he was smuggling in Japanese manga, porn, and giving bribes to guards
      • Was caught and started a riot
  • 2010, reestablishing the death penalty was reviewed by Minister of Justice
    • Violent serial killers were the key focus; Yoo was the key example for ministry’s review
    • Review was abandoned
  • Present Day
    • Sinsu-dong Officetel is still there
    • Hospital parking lot and hospital have been demolished
    • Nogosan-dong Officetel has been demolished and rebuilt
      • Restaurant on the first floor
    • Nogosan Public Security Center (formerly Nogosan Police Box) is 30m away
    • A merchant who runs a supermarket nearby said, “Even now, even just the name of Yoo Yeong-chul comes out. Years have passed, but the shock of that time is still the same.”
    • The terrain around Bongwonsa Temple has changed a lot