Korean Sociological Image #34: Child Sex Offender Kim Kil-tae Caught

Whether in response to intense criticism of the government’s policies towards sex offenders or of their own accord, I was still very impressed with the police for sending this wanted notice for Kim Kil-tae (김길태) to all Busan households yesterday, the main suspect in the rape and murder of 13 year-old Lee Yu-ri (이유리) last month. The first time I’d ever received a wanted notice in the mail in 10 years in Korea, let alone for a crime that occurred last Saturday at the other side of a city of 3.6 million, I thought it was significant enough to warrant a post in its own right, but I’m happy to report that literally as I began typing that the news came through that he has been caught.

I’ll update this post as more information becomes available. The reward, by the way, was for 20,000,000 won, or roughly 17,700 US dollars.

Update 1 – I’ll let this news speak for itself:

Rival parties agreed Wednesday to convene a one-day parliamentary session this month to act on a series of bills calling for tougher punishment for sex crimes, an unusual bipartisan move reflecting nationwide outrage over the recent rape and murder of a teenage girl.

Read the rest here. On a more reflective note, see Extra! Korea for a brief discussion on the possible role of absentee parents in this and similar crimes.

Update 2 – The Korea Times has a report about his apprehension here.

Update 3 – The Hankyoreh’s take on it is here. Earlier, it used the original crime itself to criticize unrelated policies of the Lee Myung-bak administration in a cartoon, and while I’m generally sympathetic to the newspaper (it’s the only Korean newspaper which doesn’t caricature and/or deliberately misrepresent foreign English teachers for instance), it does seem to have a habit of that sort of thing.

Update 4 – Via ROK Drop, here are the latest developments in the case:

The police investigation of a recent rape and murder case of a teenage girl in Busan is facing difficulties due to lack of evidence.

The 33-year-old, Kim Gil-tae, caught Wednesday, has denied the charges and remained silent during interrogation, said officials.

He only admitted stealing money and keys in a nearby hair shop while he was hiding from police.

Investigators requested an arrest warrant on Thursday, based on genetic evidence such as Kim’s DNA found in the body of the 13-year-old victim, Lee Yu-ri.

The police, however, have so far failed to collect definitive evidence linking him to the murder.

Read the rest at the Korea Herald here. Personally, I’m a bit confused and surprised though, as how on Earth can the fact that his DNA was found inside the body not be the “definitive evidence” required?

Update 5: Initially denying it, the news has just come in that Kim Kil-tae has now confessed to the crime.

(For all posts in the Korean Sociological Images series, see here)


14 thoughts on “Korean Sociological Image #34: Child Sex Offender Kim Kil-tae Caught

  1. My wife told me about this today. The mountains behind the house – Baekyang – seem to be popular for criminals.


  2. The thing that really strikes me about this case is the sensationalism and reactionism in Korean society.
    Exactly the same thing happened after the Na-yeong rape case in Ansan. These stories are plastered all over the media and are on the lips of anyone you talk to. Just last night, half of the 9pm news was taken up by this case. What happens to all of the other murders that happen in Korea every day (I don’t have stats but I’m guessing its more 5). Some might say “but he killed a young girl” and to that I say; young girls die every day on Korea’s roads usually caused by someone not following the laws.
    And the same reactionary measures are being taken by the courts in typical Korean fashion. They obviously haven’t heard of “prevention is the best cure”. Last time they pledged to get tough on sex criminals but there has yet to be a case where that’s evident.
    Oh and what happened to the privacy laws that prevent names form being broadcast. Whenever you read a story about a normal murder the victims and defendants are always referred to as A씨 or 김씨 etc.. but when a large case like this comes along the media (and media consumers) find it appropriate to name the defendant in full.

    Just sayin’


    1. Oh no, all valid points, and I too am a bit worried that it will all just lead to another 2 weeks of a lot of noise about an issue without anything much really being changed. One small thing about the name issue though, is that I’m not sure it’s relevant seeing as how Kim Kil-tae’s name was mentioned on the wanted notice, but I agree that the Korean media is very inconsistent when it comes to things like that, usually feeling no need to protect non-Koreans names in particular. Which suddenly reminds of a picture I once saw at Brian in Jeollanam-do too (don’t know where exactly sorry), in which Korean bystanders to some event had their faces mosaiced but non-Koreans didn’t, a routine practice for the Korean media.


    1. Thanks very much for that: I too had thought how strange & ultimately quite dangerous it was in this case that the police were willing to suspend their normal rules for the sake of what can only be described as mob justice.

      Being so used to it, I’d never considered how simply bizarre the reenactments with the white dummies were too, but like you say, semi-logical in the context of a village-justice mentality. If you’re interested, I discuss that at length in a series on domestic violence in Korea too, & which I hope to restart soon after *cough* a year’s delay!


  3. I wonder how much more of a circus it would have been if the offender had been a typical diseased, perverted, barbaric foreigner. Would all furriners be arbitrarily arrested for interrogation? Would there be lynch mobs and riots?


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