Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Yoo Young-cheol, South Korea's Brutal Serial Killer

The Thursday Night Killer

South Korea is well connected in the cyber world.  Gossip on Internet message boards, media reports and one news documentary covered the story of women being murdered around Seoul.  Two nicknames for the string of murders happening around the city came about:  the "Thursday Night Killer" and the "Rainy Night Murderer."

By early July, journalists in Seoul were picking up on the chain of murders happening around the metropolis, and some were speculating it was more than random, unrelated homicides.  On July 9, the Joong Ang Daily ran a prescient story by reporter Bae No-pil:

"Seoul murders: Serial killer at work?"

A series of unsolved and apparently motiveless murders in Seoul is raising fears that a serial killer is stalking women.

In southwestern Seoul, four stabbing murders and one knife attack occurred on rainy evenings, and four of the five events happened on a Thursday night.  All of the attacks occurred within the vicinity of four kilometers.  None of the attacks indicated that the killer was a sexual predator or a thief, no items were stolen from the victims and none were raped.

In Gwanak-gu, a high school girl was stabbed ten times on February 26 at two in the morning and survived the experience.  The second attack occurred on April 22 when a female university student died from a knifing in the Guro district.  Another body of a female university student turned up at Borame Park with stab wounds.  The last attack was on July 8, when a 10-year-old girl and her 31-year-old mother were discovered stabbed to death in their home in Gwangin-gu with no sign of burglary. 

There was a vibe in the air.  Women were going home earlier than usual at night.  Sales of pepper spray, gas guns, and security alarms shot up when the news stories came out.  Prostitutes were aware something was happening and warned each other to be careful.  Only two of the prostitutes that Yoo killed were ever reported as missing to the police.

Police admitted that they had little to go on, citing lack of evidence or witnesses.  Adding to the climate of fear in the city was a news documentary about the string of murders.  After that was aired, Internet message boards flooded with gossip and hearsay such as women should avoid wearing red or white on rainy days or on Thursdays.  Much of this was influenced not by facts, but from the Korean thriller "Memories of Murder." 

Movie poster: Memories of Murder
Movie poster: Memories of
Murder

The film, directed by Bong Jun-ho, garnered critical praise when it was released in 2003, roughly a year before Yoo Young-cheol's killing spree, and it was still fresh in everyone's mind.  It is based on a true story of murders that spanned a ten year period in Hwaseong in the late 1980s.  The killer leaves scant evidence for the police to work with, and the murders happen on rainy nights.  The female victims were wearing red and white at their time of death.  The murders remain unsolved to this day.

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