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Posted : 2007-11-30 02:27
Updated : 2007-11-30 02:27

Killer Was Co-Worker, Not Phone Battery

By Cho Jin-seo
Staff Reporter

A phone battery may catch fire. Even so, it cannot kill a man who's already dead.

A co-worker has confessed that it was him, not a mobile phone, that killed a 33-year-old man who was found lying dead with a burnt mobile phone in his shirt pocket.

Kwon, 58, told police Thursday night that he hit Seo, 33, while reversing his excavator at a stone quarry in Cheongwon, North Chungcheong Province. The phone was on fire when he found Seo lying on the ground, and he was too afraid to report the incident, the police said. Kwon was arrested.

``I was reversing the excavator, and suddenly I couldn't see Seo anymore. I ran out and saw him lying on the ground, bleeding, with his clothes on fire,'' Kwon was quoted as saying by the police. ``All this happened so quickly, I was scared, so I lied that the battery exploded and killed Seo.''

Seo was found dead Wednesday morning at the stone quarry. Police initially suspected that the battery had damaged his heart and lungs after having exploded, leading to his death.

A number of Korean and foreign newspapers reported that the phone explosion killed the man, even though LG Electronics _ the manufacturer of the phone, flatly denied such possibilities.

Thursday's autopsy found that Seo's body had bruises and factures all over the chest, arms, back and a finger _ damage too dispersed to be caused by a single mobile phone explosion, a police coroner said. The phone battery seemed to be fired up by the impact of the collision, the police said.

Lithium-ion polymer batteries used in mobile phones can catch fire by external forces but they hardly explode like a bomb, experts say. Even before the police's announcement, suspicions were raised that other forces may have killed Seo as the phone appeared to be in one piece though it was severely burnt.

LG said it will not sue the newspapers and Internet news agencies that blamed the firm for the man's death. The firm's stock price fell by more than 5 percent in the past two days since the accident. After it was cleared of the false charge, the stock price rebounded by 1.3 percent as of Friday 2:30 p.m.

``We are relieved that the problem was solved in only two days,'' LG spokesman Choi Joon-hyuk said. ``We appreciate the police and the National Institute of Scientific Investigation for their swift investigation.''

indizio@koreatimes.co.kr

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