16-year-old murders college student over occult debate
By Kim Susan Se-jeong
A heated argument in cyberspace was the likely reason for a 20-year-old student’s murder in Sinchon, Seoul, last Monday, police said Friday.
Three suspects -- Lee, 16; Hong, 15; and Yoon, 18 -- were on the scene when the victim, identified as a Kim, was stabbed over 40 times.
“The suspects were all members of Sa-ryeong cafe, an occult website,” said a police spokesman Thursday. “But there is no connection between the website and the murder.”
The suspects, along with Park, 20, the victim’s girlfriend, had not even been proactive members of the website.
However, experts speculate that Sa-ryeong cafe had more to do with the killing.
“The murder motive cannot be explained without Sa-ryeong cafe,” an expert said. Lee and the others were very interested in Sa-ryeong cafe. They may have been offended by Kim, who disbelieved in the occult.
“Suspects say that Sa-ryeong cafe was not the main motive, but the website was an important place for them _ a place where they could fill the emptiness they felt in real life,” said Lee Ung-hyeok, a professor of public administration at Korean National Police University.
“Differences of opinions in the occult may have incited anger, causing the murder,” the professor said.
But this is still not enough to explain why the suspects stabbed Kim as many as 40 times in a park in the middle of Seoul.
“We got angry because Kim was so self-righteous and conceited when we chatted on the mobile messenger, KakaoTalk,” said Lee, Hong and Yoon, who were found at the site of the crime.
But Lee and Hong had only met Kim four or five times, and Yoon had never seen Kim until the day of the murder. It is difficult to believe they committed the murder simply because of a conversation in cyberspace.
“They stabbed the body 40 times, even after Kim was dead. This cannot be written off as just confusion or panic,” said Gwak Dae-gyeong, a professor of police administration at Dongguk University in Seoul. “This violence is the result of deep hatred and anger. These arguments may not seem like much to adults, but it is likely that the resentment between the victim and suspects accumulated over a long period of time.”
The line between reality and cyberspace may have been blurred as a result of long hours on the Internet and violent online games.
Some blame “hyeon-pi,” which is a slang term that combines “hyeon-sil,” the Korean word for reality, and “player kill.” Hyeon-pi occurs when an online debate or argument leads to physical altercations in real life.
The number of cases of hyeon-pi is increasing. One such case occurred on April 20. A high school student gathered his friends and assaulted another student because the latter swore at him on KakaoTalk, in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul.
“Teenagers even use KakaoTalk to chat with friends that are sitting right beside them,” said Lee Su-jeong, a professor of criminal psychology at Kyonggi University. “The cyber-self is just as important as the self in reality, thus arguments online have a great impact.”
In response to Kim’s death, Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency charged Park with aiding and abetting the murder. Park had met Kim on the day of the crime, but returned home before the murder. Park knew that Lee and Yoon often sent messages to Kim saying, “I’ll kill you,” and knew they would meet later that day.
During questioning, Park said, “I knew they would fight, but I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary,” according to the spokesman.
The writer is a Korea Times intern.