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Calls rise to find truth about college student's death

Police officers recover the body of a college student, who was reported missing, near the Banpo Han River Park in southern Seoul, April 30. Yonhap
Police officers recover the body of a college student, who was reported missing, near the Banpo Han River Park in southern Seoul, April 30. Yonhap

By Kim Rahn

Public calls are rising for authorities to uncover the truth about a college student who went missing and was then found dead in the Han River.

While authorities have secured almost no evidence on what happened to him at the time of his disappearance, the man's friend, with whom he had been drinking, has become the subject of growing suspicions.

The 22-year-old medical college student, Son Jeong-min, allegedly drank with his friend, whose name was withheld, at the Banpo Han River Park in southern Seoul, starting from 11 p.m. on April 24 for several hours.

According to the friend, they fell asleep there and when he woke up at around 4:30 a.m. on April 25, Son was not there. He said he thought his friend had gone home and so also left.

A leaflet to find a missing college student, posted on his father's blog / Captured from blog
A leaflet to find a missing college student, posted on his father's blog / Captured from blog
But Son didn't return home, and his parents reported him missing to the police, as well as posted placards around the park seeking any information from witnesses.

Five days later, Son was found in the water near the place he and his friend had been. He had several wounds to the back of the head, but the National Forensic Service said they couldn't determine the cause of the death, due to the decomposition of the man's body, adding that the wounds didn't seem to be a direct cause of the death. They conducted an autopsy and the result will come out in a couple of weeks.

As there were no surveillance cameras in the area, the police have been searching for witnesses to find out what happened to the man ― whether he lost his footing, voluntarily entered into the water, or if there was foul play. There have been several reports, none of which have provided any critical evidence so far.

Amid growing public attention on the case, a petition was posted on the Cheong Wa Dae website, Monday, calling on the authorities to find the truth. It gained more than 160,000 signatures in less than a day.

Without key evidence, Son's father has raised suspicions about the son's friend.

The friend told Son's family that he and Son fell on the ground while drinking and his trousers and shoes got dirty. Son's father asked the friend's father if he could see the shoes to find any clue on what happened, but the friend's father immediately answered he had dumped the shoes.

The friend was also in possession of Son's cell phone, saying he took Son's by mistake while under the influence. But his own phone has not been found. The police are conducting a forensic examination of Son's phone and are trying to find the friend's phone.

"This case doesn't seem to be an accident," the petitioner wrote. "The friend's testimonies are suspicious, but the police are not questioning him, only trying to find witnesses."

The police said they would soon call in the friend for questioning.

In the meantime, regarding the fact that there are an insufficient number of surveillance cameras in parks by the Han River, several other petitions have been posted to call for an increase in the number of cameras installed.

According to Seoul City's 2020 data, 443 cameras were installed in parks and areas along the Han River, but only 162 of them were for the monitoring of the parks, while the others are for monitoring interchanges and elevators.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said Tuesday that he will improve safety around the parks.


Kim Rahn rahnita@koreatimes.co.kr


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