Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Confession of Cannibalism

"He patted me on the back while removing my liver to eat."

An old Korean proverb about being tricked or conned

The Korean verb, malk-da, translates "to make clear, refresh, or purify."  That was the reason Yoo gave when asked why he ate the livers of his victims.  He said, "It made my mind and body refreshed."  In Korean folk medicine, the liver is a symbol of bravery and vigor.  He did it on four occasions with the livers of four different victims.  Or so he said.  Like much of the case, police were unable to confirm if he actually did eat human flesh.

Yoo Young-cheol
Yoo Young-cheol

The story of Yoo Young-cheol was on the front page of newspapers and was the main story of all the TV news programs around the country.  On the 19th, two fan club websites (http://cafe.daum.net/greatkiller and http://cafe.naver.com/yyclove) popped up on Daum and Naver, two Korean Internet portals. One of the website referred to Yoo as the "coolest murderer."  Membership in the fan clubs rose quickly because people had to register in order to post messages of outrage and curse the Webmaster with abusive language.  Shortly after, both portals closed down each Web site. Also around this time, phone sex rooms reported a booming business from the accidental publicity.

The forensic examiner, Dr. Bak Hwe-gyeong, asked, "How could a human being be so evil?"  While doing the autopsies, she closely observed the victims' smashed heads and their mutilated bodies.  She surmised that it wasn't just any murder, but killing out of pure anger and rage.  It was about hate. To her, it was insane.

Yoo helping police locate bodies
Yoo helping police locate bodies

As Yoo confessed bits and pieces of his story, the police scrambled to corroborate what he said.  The only material they were working with was what he told them and the dead bodies pointed out by Yoo.  From particles of human flesh taken from the hammer, DNA tests matched some of the recovered victims.  From measuring Yoo's feet and shoe size, police were able to determine that the footprints left at the Hyehwa-dong scene were from the same person. Yoo informed the police that he kept a written record of each killing but it was not found in the apartment search and nothing on Yoo's computer hard drive revealed anything useful.  Police admitted they had scant physical evidence that linked Yoo with his self-confessed murders.

On Friday, at the Third Criminal Division of the Seoul District Public Prosecutors Office, more details of Yoo's murders emerged from his confessions to the police.  On July 25, Yoo told the police that he was responsible for the murder of the woman in Imoon-dong on February 6. Yoo kept changing his story.  He told investigators that he murdered 26 people, six more than the original 20 he confessed to.  He also said he killed people in Incheon and in the southern city of Busan.  He gave no other details or dates.  Police had no way of confirming any of this. Traditionally, South Korean courts have favored the prosecution but in recent years, more judges are requiring more tangible evidence that can prove their charges against the accused.

A criminal psychologist that interviewed Yoo recounted that he was antisocial and distrusted the mores of society and that Yoo showed little guilt or remorse for his murders.  Yoo claimed that given the chance, he would have killed 100 more women.

The police assembled their charges that included 21 counts of murder, along with burglary, impersonating a police officer, arson, and improperly disposing of corpses.  With the evidence and confessions gained from Yoo, they could not link him to the knife murders of the "Rainy Night—Thursday Night Killer."  Those cases still remain unsolved.

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