Murder Cannot Be Forgotten1)
The Hwaseong Serial Killings, the missing Frog Boys, and the kidnapping of Lee Hyungho. Each of these crimes terrorized Korea. They took place from late 1980 to early 1990, and are the nation's top three unresolved cold cases. Recently, however, the Hwaseong Serial Murders have resurfaced. The unsolved case centers on the murders of 10 women, killed over the period of five years in the area of Hwaseong of Gyeonggi-do. During the original investigation, 2 million police officers were called to the scene of the crime, but the true murderer was not apprehended. However, on September 19, 2019, police announced that the case took a twist. They announced they had correctly identified the Hwaseong Serial Killer through new DNA evidence collected from the fifth, seventh, and ninth victims. The suspect was Lee who was already serving a prison sentence in Busan since 1994 for raping and killing his sister-in-law. After several meetings with profilers, Lee finally confessed to the killing of 14 people including those at Hwaseong. Even though he is found guilty of the murders, the case against him will never proceed. The date of the last murder was in 1991, and in Korea the statute of limitations on murder expires 15 years after the crime. In other words, the statute of limitation on the Hwaseong Serial Murders expired in 2006. In 2015, the statute of limitations on murder was eliminated from the law, but the current law cannot punish past cases. That is, the statute of limitations may have expired, but work on uncovering the truth behind cold cases continues.
Lee cannot be punished under the law, but people will not forget what happened. The case was retold in a film based on real events. The drama <Signal (2016)> used one of the murders in the episode “Murder in the southern part of Gyeonggi-do”. Also, the movie <Memories of Murder (2003)> is centered on all of the murders. Discussing the decision to use real murder cases, Bong Junho, Director of <Memories of Murder>, said, “A film that tells the audience about past horrendous crimes is a way to punish the criminal. The criminal’s appalling crimes will never be forgotten.” However, in response, some people say that dramatic reenactments are inappropriate subject matter for film content because the actual crime is a serious tragedy that victims and their bereaved families must struggle with daily. After revealing the real murderer suspect responsible for the killings, some TV channels like OCN and CGV aired <Memories of Murder>. Commenting on the aired film, pop culture critic Hwang Jinmi said, “Crimes cannot be prevented by airing stories that glorify serial killers. We need to focus on issues such as the statute of limitations, the possibility of resolving cold cases, and whether crimes against women can be decreased or not since the incident.” This case presents society with an opportunity to deliberate on the media’s portrayal of criminal cases.
1) Kim Minjae, ““The Murder of 10 Women Isn’t a ‘Memory’... The Way ‘Hwaseong Serial Murders’ Are Showed””, Hankyoreh, September 19, 2019