By Nam Hyun-woo
Iksan Police Station said Sunday it will "thoroughly review its investigation" of a murder case that took place 13 years ago. The move by the police was ignited by a recent documentary program which alleged that police had arrested the wrong person for the crime.
The SBS TV documentary, "The Its Know," which aired Saturday, portrayed how the murder took place in 2000, at Iksan, North Jeolla Province.
On Aug. 10, 2000, a taxi driver, surnamed Yoo, 42, sent a radio message to his colleague informing him that he was robbed. He was later found with multiple stab injuries on his shoulder and chest. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but died of hypovolemic shock.
A 15-year-old boy who worked at a nearby tea house said he witnessed the murderer and Iksan police sketched a portrait of the suspect based on testimonies from the boy, surnamed Choi.
Three days later, however, the police arrested Choi as the murder suspect, saying that "Choi admitted that he murdered the driver after getting into a tussle with him."
Choi said during a court hearing that he made a false confession because of the police's coercive investigation, but he admitted the crime in another court hearing.
The Gwangju High Court eventually sentenced him to a 10-year prison term in May 2001.
In 2003, after Choi served three years of his prison term, Gunsan Police Station in the same province announced that it apprehended the "real murderer."
However, Gunsan police failed to charge the new suspect due to so-called lack of evidence, and Choi had to serve his full prison term of 10 years.
The documentary alleged, however, that the taxi's tachometer record showed that Choi could not have stabbed the taxi driver. Also, none of Choi's belongings had the victim's blood stains on yhem. It also showed that Choi's fingerprints were not found in the crime scene.
In a bizarre twist, the officers who investigated the case however claim they have no memory of the facts of the case because "so much time has passed," since the case happened, moreover some of the officers involved in the case have been transferred to other locations.
Choi is now seeking to request a retrial.
But he faces a 140-million-won ($123,000) in a compensation suit as Korea Workers' Compensation and Welfare Service (COMWEL) exercised the right to indemnity, adding 100 million won interest to 40 million won which COMWEL paid as compensation to the bereaved family instead of Choi.
As the documentary aired, public criticism against the Iksan police mounted. The Website of the police station has been bombarded with netizens' ferocious postings calling for the opening of fresh investigation into the case.
On Sunday, Na Yu-in, head of Iksan Police Station wrote on its Website pledging "a thorough review of the investigation" of the case so as to clear all doubts.
He said in the posting that "the court found Choi guilty and his punishment was enforced according to police investigation and the prosecution's indictment. Since the TV program raised allegations, we will eliminate any doubts."
However, that has done little to end the uproar and some are calling on the police to apologize to Choi.
One of the posting reads: "We will cautiously watch how the case will be reinvestigated. At least you should explain clearly about the allegation posed by the program."