By Na Jeong-ju
Arthur Patterson, the suspect in a high-profile murder case that took place in Itaewon, Seoul, in 1997, is likely to be extradited to Korea for trial, according to the justice ministry.
It said Wednesday that a U.S. federal court recently decided to extradite the 33-year-old American in accordance with the ministry’s request.
However, his extradition may take some time because he is expected to file a petition against the court’s decision, the ministry said.
Patterson was arrested in Los Angeles, Calif., in May last year after the ministry requested U.S. authorities hand him over. Korean prosecutors indicted him in December on charges of homicide.
On April 3, 1997, a 23-year-old college student Cho Choong-pil was found murdered in the first-floor bathroom of a Burger King restaurant in Itaewon. Cho was stabbed multiple times around the neck and bled to death at the scene.
Police arrested two suspects ― Patterson, son of a U.S. military contractor, and Edward Lee, his Korean-American friend. Both were 18 at the time.
Patterson and Lee accused each other of committing the murder.
Initially, the prosecution indicted Lee for the murder but he was acquitted in 1999 by the Supreme Court for lack of evidence.
Prosecutors then banned Patterson from leaving the country to help investigators solve the case. He, however, departed for the United States in August 1999, hours after the travel ban expired. The Korean authorities failed to renew the ban.
Prosecutors suspended their probe in 2002 since it was impossible to go ahead without the suspect.
In 2009, a film shed fresh light on the murder case. The movie, directed by Hong Ki-seon, sparked public outcry, prompting the prosecution to resume its investigation.
During extradition hearings in the U.S., Patterson claimed that the 15-year statute of limitations for murder expired in April. The Korean prosecution, however, countered that the statute of limitations was suspended because he fled the country to escape punishment.
Prosecutors said they secured more evidence by using modern scientific methods that were not available in 1997.
Patterson has been detained since last year after the extradition request was issued. His bail appeal has since been rejected three times by a U.S. court.