Anger as Suwon Murderer Escapes Death Penalty

Oh Won-chun leaves the Seoul courthouse after hearing the results of his sentencing appeal

The decision of a Seoul appeals court to commute the death sentence given to the murderer Oh Won-chun to a life sentence has led to overwhelming protest from all levels of Korean society. The court’s specific rationale for the change in sentencing was new analysis that Oh dismembered the victim’s body because he wanted to hide the evidence rather than because he wanted to distribute the meat to someone else. The dismemberment led some to believe that the murder was part of Chinese organ trafficking.

Amid the ghastly weekly stories of rape or murder, the April case [covered by koreaBANG in detail here] that saw Oh Won–chun rape a woman, murder her and carve her body in 365 pieces, left a lasting impression due to the brutality of the crime and the fact that Oh is an ethnic Chinese-Korean who killed a young Korean woman. Online, “throw them in a prison cell with Oh Won-chun” has become a curse for particularly offensive individuals.

Politicians have added their voices to criticism of the sentencing. During a public hearing on October 19th at the National Assembly, legislators from across the political spectrum condemned the appeals court decision. Assembly Member Kim Hak-yong stated, “it is not right for the courts to pass down a verdict which contradicts public opinion or the social atmosphere.” At the initial sentencing, the public prosecutor stated that surveys indicated 72% support for the death penalty among South Koreans.

The most emotional opposition to the change in sentencing came from the brother of a woman murdered in July on the island of Jeju. The man wrote that he would burn himself alive in protest in front of any courthouse that gave his sister’s killer a similar life sentence rather than an order of execution.

A protest in May by the Citizens’ Association to Eliminate Foreigner Crime demanded further investigation into the the murder, linking it to favorable treatment for foreign criminals

From NoCut News:

“A Life Sentence for Oh Won-chun? I Hate this Country”

Transcript of an October 19th radio interview with the family of the victim:

The case of Oh Won-chun, convicted of the kidnapping, sexual assault, murder, and butchery of a young woman in the city of Suwon has drawn public indignation. Yesterday, the Seoul High Court announced that Oh would receive a sentence of life imprisonment. The initial court ruled that Oh should receive a death sentence. The commutation of the sentence has led to strong public protest. An auditory investigation of the National Assembly Judicial Committee also criticized commuting the sentence. The strongest protest has come from the family of the victim, who we hear from now. The speaker is the older sister of the victim, the last one to live with her, and along with the police, searched for her younger sibling. She will remain anonymous during this interview. How are you doing?

Reporter: You were in the courtroom yesterday?

Family Member: Yes

Reporter: Did you have any idea that the courts would decide to give a life sentence?

Family Member: I had no idea they would do so.

Reporter: You believed they were going to announce a death sentence, correct?

Family Member: Yes, of course. I thought it was only right to hand down a death sentence.

Reporter: What did the court say when they announced the commutation of the sentence?

Family Member: They said he had lived honestly, that they believed he would not commit a similar crime in the future. They had no words for the rights of the victim, only listening to what the perpetrator had to say and only taking him into account when deciding on a sentence.

Reporter: You are unable to accept the court’s opinion, am I right?

Family Member: Of course.

Reporter: If we look at some of the points that have been brought up in reports, the differences between the initial court ruling and the appeals court, the first difference seems to be whether this was an accidental act or whether it was planned. We…

Family Member: Oh, the initial ruling was completely reversed. The first ruling clearly said that this crime was planned in advance, that he committed it with malicious intentions, and that he was planning to distribute [the body]. The appeals court changed the story and said that it was now a crime without intent, that he came out beside the telephone pole and then did what he did. A complete change in the story.

Reporter: So the issue now for the victim’s family, as I can tell, is that this was a crime committed to obtain human flesh, am I right?

Family Member: Well, the things is, we are now saying that it was for distributing human flesh, but the government is trying to conceal that fact.

Reporter: They’re trying to conceal it?

Family Member: Yes, so because of that, they’re trying to sweep that under the rug, for someone who so brutally killed another person… it’s only right, only appropriate that such a person be executed.

Reporter: Why do you believe that the courts are trying to conceal the true objective of the crime?

Reporter: What draws you to believe that?

Family Member: These days our society is filled with so many cases of sexual assault, it has changed into an extremely terrifying society. If word spreads that the murder was committed to obtain human flesh than people will be scared and have a hard time going on, it is to prevent that from happening that they are trying to hide the facts of the case. I… I really hate this country.

Reporter: The new sentence must have stirred up painful memories of the past, new trauma.

Family Member: Of course. I mean, how brutally must one person kill another before they earn the death penalty… I want to know how much more horrifying the crime must be before they will decide on an execution. Criminals must be delighted by how this crime has only resulted in a life sentence.

Reporter: I understand. I hope that the family of the victim and the parents receive psychological counseling and are able to recover in the future. Thank you for agreeing to today’s interview.

Oh re-enacts his crime, such re-enactments are standard in South Korean criminal investigations

Comments from Nocut News:

ssh95892012.10.20:

Calculated murder must receive a sentence of death, only by carrying through on such punishment will crime fall

give0007:

They should closely investigate the progressive politicians, the professors, and the NGOs who strongly oppose the death sentence

mk9894:

Because of Lee Myung-bak morality has hit rock bottom and people like Oh Won-chun show up, receiving a life sentence. Would the judge have given the same verdict if it had been his daughter? Does anyone think that is possible?

khb9899:

Such a heinous bastard, if not the death sentence then what? What are we supposed to do? I can do nothing but curse this

joondogi:

It is worth remembering that the Democratic Party opposes the death penalty  And I’m not pointing that out because anyone is paying me to do so.

wr5941:

I hate this! The judges commuted it to a life sentence!! Get out of this country.. Useless judges!!!

[email protected]:

Those judges should be dismissed!

nagnea_kr:

Well, Korea is falling into chaos already, let’s see how far we go..! I think all of us are going to need a crossbow arrow.. [reference to a well known case where a citizen threatened a judge with a crossbow]

sun00432001:

Judge saekki. You give a beast like that a life sentence. Isn’t it common sense that it is important to make an example out of this criminal and execute him? Are you a member of Oh’s family or something? These bastard judges need to start by being aware of the surveys. You don’t even read about the anger of the people? Would you have ever commuted the sentence if it had been your daughter..

tmdgusrn:

he he Oh cuts someone into 360 pieces and you call it accidental, then give him a life sentence? Perhaps if he had eaten all of the pieces then you could have skipped even calling it an unplanned murder and just dismissed the case… Such ridiculous cases, how can you call it a decision… he he he

hite00100:

Hey judges, if our citizens had done the same thing in China they would have just executed him.. have you ever considered that???

Comments from The Chosun Ilbo:

박상철(wal****):

These useless courts, commuting the sentence of such a murderer, are you even human?

황성천(pink****):

While it is unfair to take the one precious life that belongs to a cruel murderer like Oh Won-chun, it seems unfair as well to give a man like that a clean end. After cutting up the body and committing such horrible acts.. Far from realizing how terrible his crime was or comprehending his acts this obvious criminal appeals on the basis on unfairness. The judge seems crazy to have passed down such a verdict

강재호(ja****):

They should give all judges a test of common sense and immediately fire those who fail. They have to have some decency! Without fail, there always seems to be someone who thinks thoughts that are coming from another country and who ends up tormenting our citizens. Fire those who dump stress upon our people. It seems like it will be a long time before they are brought to reality.

박병호(na****):

It seems like murderers are committing their crime with a belief that they will not incur the death penalty. Even if you kill someone and receive a life sentence, it is possible to wait roughly 20 years and gain early release. Knowing this, murderers do not waver in their plans to kill people. It must be said that judges have played a role in creating the large number of murders.

유수봉(dacap****):

The sadness of the victim’s family, who know that she was murdered for no reason, must be eternal. However, focusing on whether the butchery of the body was intended to aid distribution to people who want human flesh or to cover up a crime ignore the sentiments of the people. Those who kill another human being must be given the death penalty.

Comments from Nocut News (2):

kyh1901:

Never using the death penalty… they need to get themselves straight… pay attention now.. all you do is keep them in prison for life and give them three square meals a day, is that all? They should, just, cut off both of their arms… cut off one leg… crush the remaining leg below the knee… tattoo and brand the name “Oh Won-chun” on his face… then let them out of prison…they can do what they want afterwards  whether they get beat up or not, or commit suicide. There’s no reason to treat them like a human being.

team6:

Just announcing that he will receive a death penalty is not the end of it all. There should be a follow up investigation into whether there was a connection to an organ trafficking organization and why there were two months missing from his phone records. Only then can we prevent a re-occurrence of such crimes. If there is an organ trafficking organization, then they will just lay low for a few months and then start up their operations again. Politicians will never start such an investigation on their own but do they know the reason why it is impossible to find missing persons? If we are talking about organ trafficking, then it is possible there would be no body to find. There are many ways for crime to occur.

hedgehog75er:

Come on, what is our country doing? Isn’t it important to find out who ate what and who ordered such a crime? You knock on any door and hear praise for Kim Jong-un and people go out to eat mutton at a Chinese-Korean restaurant, perhaps it’s human flesh that they are eating. What a state in our country.

sea2183:

All the talk of death penalties is just talk….there are so many people in this country who go without food and we give that saekki three square meals a day??? He must think he’s lucky, kills someone and never needs to worry again about finding a meal

프로:

If they say that there was production and distribution of human flesh then there must also be someone who sells it and someone who consumes it, right? Catch them all…

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  • Jang

    The point is mute since South Korea doesn’t follow through on death sentences. This is funny, especially the hatred for and protest against “foreign crime” like there is a difference and Koreans don’t get off lightly.

    • vincent

      Umm Jang just so you know the word you probably want to use is moot not mute :)

      • Mongchild

        for all intensive purposes crimes like this are diamond dozen

  • Snazzy_Brett

    I’m pretty sure organs need to be transplanted within a few hours of being removed from a living body in order to be of any use. I think an organ smuggler would know that, too. I also highly doubt that someone smuggling organs would use a kitchen knife to extract them, and then waste precious time cutting up the rest of the body to conceal the “true” purpose. Unless the story means the meat was for sale or consumption, in which case I doubt the story even more.

    That said, I agree with the first netizen comment. This murder was calculated and premeditated and the killer knew exactly what he was doing.

    I thought I remember reading a while back that even though the death penalty is still given out, no one has been killed by it since 1998. Therefore, in Korea, a death sentence and life sentence are essentially the same thing.

    • I do not think it is exactly organ transplant, there is an idea propagating that literally human flesh is consumed for some medicinal purpose. This is what I have heard from friends. A few months ago there was a scandal about capsules of powder ground from human flesh apparently. Anyone have a link or additional clarifying information?

      • Snazzy_Brett

        I was just editing that into my response when you replied.

        There is no history of any Joseonjok in China or Korea, preying on young women for body parts. The Chinese don’t value women’s body parts in Chinese medicine, and I don’t personally think that the Chinese would knowingly consume adult human meat.

        Questions: How would the family know what this man had killed this woman for? Do they have access to special information that reveals there is a market for human flesh amongst Joseonjok in Korea? Why doesn’t anyone else know about this? Why have there not been other reported instances of murders for human meat by the Joseonjok community in Korea?

        • chucky3176

          Why do you think there haven’t been any suspicious reports? How do you know?

  • holdingrabbits

    “It is not right for the courts to pass down a verdict which contradicts public opinion or social atmosphere.” quote of the year! Mob rule it is then! I guess a mob is a form of democracy. I suppose those boys who blocked traffic in Gangnam will be getting the death penalty right about now. This just in: women must now wear burqas, abortion is now legal, and we are at war with Japan over Dokdo, the spiritual homeland of all Koreans.

    • vincent

      Whatever the case may be this person committed an incredibly heinous crime and should have to pay the price, I guess the only way to understand why people would call for the death sentence is to empathize with the family, you should ask yourself what if it was someone that you loved that was murdered like this, would you be able to accept the sentence handed down by the court?

      • holdingrabbits

        I think that demanding the death penalty is a natural response, but I still think it is the wrong response. The family is obviously having a hard time, and so I can understand why they have a conspiracy theory running through their minds (though I’m not sure why her brother is going to set himself on fire). Ultimately though, retribution/revenge is not an effective deterrent nor is it a strong moral position. I don’t really want to go into it and hijack this post by talking about the death penalty, but I am against it in practically every instance (except for maybe political figures).

        • vincent

          I understand we all have differing views and I can respect that, about the brother planning to immolate himself that is a separate incident, as I read in the article it happened on the Island of Jeju, it’s not related to the main story in the article.

        • Commander-in-chief

          Those for the death penalty to the horrendous murder do not argue that the punishment would deter possible crimes. They are demanding the simple: execution as a penalty for what he did. He already fell into a pit incapable of rehabilitation.

          • holdingrabbits

            I’m not saying murderers should be rehabilitated, but they should be sequestered from society. I don’t think killing them is necessary to do this. While you don’t believe the death penalty is there to serve as a deterrent, many people in favor of it still believe so in the face of every statistic and crime trend. I am not sure though why people think that death is a more horrible sentence than life in a prison cell.

          • Commander-in-chief

            Life incarceration can be more punishing than the death penalty for those who may believe criminals suffer regrets over what he did. But some brazen criminals do not. And the most importamt thing in this case is life imprisonment is the last thing bereaved families want. They want execution, nothimg more nothing less.

          • holdingrabbits

            I’m sure if it were up to the families in most murder cases that the people up for the death penalty would receive their sentence at the hands of the family a la “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.” I think of all the people involved, the family is the last group that should be able to recommend punishment as they are likely to be pretty biased.

          • Commander-in-chief

            You are rationally right. An emotionally charged ruling may be occasionally be nothing more than one from a kangroo court.

            But in this case, if I were in the shoes of the victim’s family, I would want be a Dionysian, taking the law into my hands and saying, “whoever can behave rationally at such a tragedy can throw stones at those who ineffably suffered the beloved’s loss of unimaginable proportions and just want a tit-for-tat.”

        • Kate

          To me the Death penalty isn’t about retribution or sympathy for the family, its about the fact that when a person commits a crime so horrible and depraved that they are beyond rehabilitation and would absolutely hurt someone else if given another chance that they cease to be of any value and are nothing but a strain on society and should not burden tax payers with their upkeep. They have proven to be a predator, out to destroy the good people of society and thus should be eliminated. Some people are so sick they should not be allowed to live. Read the news in the US, in the past 3 weeks, 2 little girls have been kidnapped while going to school and riding their bike by some sick child pedophile/predator and then slaughtered…anyone that commits those kinds of crimes should simply be executed because they are to evil and sick to function in normal society and are a waste of resources. Plus it only helps the world to eradicate them.

          • holdingrabbits

            I think this is where I would say that if one innocent person is killed by the justice system then the whole system is a failure. Again, I think human life is intrinsically valuable and your argument, even though you are not attributing it to retribution is basically the definition of retribution. There are many factors involved that make the death penalty unjust. In fact, executing a prisoner ultimately costs tax payers more than life imprisonment without parole due to all the legal costs associated with the trial and subsequent appeals. What then? Should we just deny convicted murderers any appeals? The death penalty brutalizes society in an effort to remove brutal elements and cowers to the masses demand to be sated with blood. Ultimately, I didn’t endow anyone with life and don’t see myself as being an ultimate judge charged with taking life.

            p.s. i didn’t downgrade your comment!^^

          • Paul M

            After all, isn’t Lady Justice depicted wearing a blindfold symbolising the impartiality of the justice system? We all should be grateful that emotions and desire for retribution are not factored (in theory) when suspects are tried and/or convicted. I’ve been enjoying your posts holidngrabbits. Thank you for being a voice of reason and rationality.

  • lonetrey / Dan

    Oh man, I remember this case. Personally, I’m not surprised at the fact that such a verdict could be reached for such a case. It’s not unheard of for life sentences to be handed out for people like this.

    On the other hand, I’ve always thought of life imprisonment as worse than the death penalty. There’s nothing more frustrating to be then to not be able to do what you want, go where you want, and having your life dictated by the prison system seems like a good way to punish a person. It’ll be a hard time for this murderer to get used to living in a box 24/7… as long as they give him the living conditions he deserves. (by that, I mean I feel like he should be tossed into a dungeon and the key be thrown away. Food goes in the cell through a slot.)

  • dk2020

    The inept cops who took a couple hours to show up when the victim called 119 should be put on trial too ..

    • Kate

      More then a couple, wasn’t it something close to 13+? And even when she had called them, pleading for help, they questioned her relentlessly “Are you sure you’re being raped?” Pathetic and just as criminal. That is one very big difference about the treatment of rape between the US and Korea, if a woman calls the cops and tells them she is being held hostaged and raped and gives them great directions, they certainly wouldn’t question her about it, act as though she is making it up, then wait 13 hours to get their sorry asses up to do their job.

      • vincent

        What happened in this case was so incredibly ludicrous that it’s almost unbelievable, ‘Are you sure you are being raped?’ , what an asinine question.

        • dk2020

          Is Suwon considered the country/rural area?

          • emily

            no, not at all

  • Kate

    Sad and horrible :( Id read that this guy may also be a wandering serial killer … sick, sick depraved monster. Honestly, monsters of this caliber are an absolute waste of air and its unfortunate that the good people of the world can’t just eliminate these evil men and women once they are found guilty. Why should he be allowed to live? Why should he be given rights? Why should any monster like this man be allowed a bed, food, tv? Society puts dogs and cats down for less.

    • Fire

      If these evil were eliminated, the righteous will have nothing to talk about. The righteous needs the evil and the evil — are not too discriminative for their evil deeds. Oh, the righteous will be bored without them.

    • Snazzy_Brett

      BTW Kate and @disqus_vr53A7xqWx:disqus and whoever else cares, Sandara Kim C. was born this afternoon!! Just wanted to let you guys know. Thanks for the support!!

      • Fire

        congratulation

      • Kate

        Congratulation Brett!!!!!!!! Now let the sleep deprived days and nights commence!!! It does get better, I think my LO got more fun after 4 months and after 4 months they start to show their little personalities and are such boring eating/poo machines :) Wait till she learns to smile at you! Whew I bet your wife is glad not to be carrying her anymore! Just remember it takes like 4 months to get use to being parents and it does get better :)

      • dk2020

        Congrats Brett .. you going to raise your daughter in Korea?

  • Commander-in-chief

    South Korea is regarded as de facto capital punishment abolitionist by the U.N. That does not mean its criminal code erases the punishment from its sentencing list.  Effectively not executing is one thing, and giving a death sentence is another.  Even if he is sentenced to death, execution requires an implementation order from the Ministry of Justice.     The indescribable crime of the body’s dismemberment into 360 pieces should carry the death penalty whatever his ulterior motives behind it are.   Impartiality is crucial requirement for any judicious judge. But this time, the judge in question failed miserably to bring the book at the cruel perpetrator.  The ruling gave a new lease om life to the criminal, while leaving bereaved family in perpetual pain and giving the dead another killing.

  • Fire

    you know someone is evil when they do duck face or a peace sign for mugshot

  • Paul M

    I’m a bit confused and I have a limited understanding of legal procedures. According to some comments here South Korea doesn’t follow through on death sentences. So if that is that case, what is the purpose of giving the death sentence if it isn’t going to be carried out? Are there any other countries which do this as well? This is not a sarcastic comment, I’m genuinely interested as to why this is done.

    • Commander-in-chief

      Following the global trend of the scrapping of the death penalty, S. Korean has put it on hold. But, unlike countries who legally did away with the penalty, the nation can have discretion to carry out execution and this is legally permissible.

      Plus, convicts given death sentences have to live in a death row with a fear of execution perhaps coming today, though the chances are slim, a big contrast to those with life imprionment who anyway stay in cells without a fear of death.

  • chucky3176

    Not surprising, considering foreign criminals get easier sentencing than Korean ones. Similar heinous murderers who happen to be native Koreans, like Yoo Young Cheol were given death sentences recently.

    • chucky3176

      Wu will be given a “message of hope” that his “Korean dream was not a failure”. Wu will serve in this prison.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8530836.stm

      South Korea opens prison for foreign convicts

      One US convict said the new prison was better than standard ones

      South Korea has opened what officials say is the world’s first purpose-built prison for foreign convicts.
      The prison offers Western food and satellite TV programmes in English, Chinese, Russian and Arabic.
      The number of foreigners in South Korean jails has more than doubled in the past four years to about 1,500.
      The
      prison’s director said the inmates would still be able to pursue the
      “Korean dream” that had led them to the country in the first place.
      The prison is about 100km (62 miles) south of the capital, Seoul, in Cheonan.
      Inmates
      are given classes in Korean culture but can also view satellite TV from
      around the world and eat non-Korean meals. A number of the guards are
      fluent in English, Russian or Chinese.

      Human rights
      The prison library has been stocked with books from many of the foreign embassies in Seoul.
      One
      American prisoner told visiting journalists that compared with standard
      South Korean prisons, the food and education on offer were much better.

      The government has said the facility aims to respect the
      inmates’ human rights and treat them in a humanitarian manner regardless
      of their language, culture or religion.
      “We will operate this
      facility for the inmates to recognize that their ‘Korean dream’ was not a
      failure,” said the prison’s director, Kim Pyung-gun. “We will give them
      a message of hope.”

      • Yeah, that makes sense I guess to have a decent prison. After all foreigners are usually given double time compared to their Korean counterparts. Just look at most sexual assault cases for American soldiers. 15 years for a one time rape cases where as Korean family members are let off on a account of alcohol and given their handy capped raped victims back to them to look after again. No link necessary. I’m sure everyone remembers this case and the countless others.

        • chucky3176

          That was just one time publicity driven sentencing. The public criticisms were so loud, the judge had to do something to show that they’re tough on crime. The sentencing came right after the new sentencing guideline for sexual crimes that went into effect. The dude made his own bed when he decided to commit the crime, just at the wrong time.

        • dk2020

          fuck those piece of shit rapists ..

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  • soneXshikshin

    what about the hwasung serial murderer? I think he is probably an old hag by now…

  • jonny

    korean women are beautiful. i pay top $ to eat them out in Canada and US.

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