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Rumors, speculation abound over college student's death

People hold signs at a rally held at the Banpo Han River Park, southern Seoul, Sunday, calling for thorough police investigation to uncover the truth about the death of a college student who went missing April 25 and whose body was found in the Han River five days later,. Yonhap
People hold signs at a rally held at the Banpo Han River Park, southern Seoul, Sunday, calling for thorough police investigation to uncover the truth about the death of a college student who went missing April 25 and whose body was found in the Han River five days later,. Yonhap

By Lee Hyo-jin

Rumors and speculation are growing about the case of a college student who was found dead in the Han River five days after he went missing from Banpo Han Rover Park, southern Seoul.

Son Jeong-min, 22, a medical student at a university in Seoul, was found dead in the Han River, April 30, five days after he was last seen by his friend, whom he allegedly had been drinking with in the park from 11 p.m., April 24, until after 2 a.m. the next morning.

The friend said they both got very drunk and fell asleep in the park, and when he woke up at around 4:30 a.m., Son wasn't there. Assuming that Son had already left, he went home. But as Son did not return home, his parents reported him missing to the police.

Five days later, his body was found in the Han River near the place where the two had been drinking. The initial autopsy conducted by the National Forensic Service concluded that he had drowned.

While the police investigation is yet to uncover the truth about the death such as how he entered the water, various rumors have been spreading online, including speculation that the friend is deeply involved in the case.

The friend threw away the shoes he wore that day, which might have contained evidence for the police to fix the timeline for that night. He said the shoes were ruined as they were covered in dirt and vomit.

He was also in possession of Son's mobile phone, saying he mistakenly took it while under the influence, claiming he lost his own phone.

Police officers search for a missing cell phone which belonged Son Jeong-min's friend, at Banpo Han River Park in southern Seoul, Sunday. Yonhap
Police officers search for a missing cell phone which belonged Son Jeong-min's friend, at Banpo Han River Park in southern Seoul, Sunday. Yonhap

Other speculation was raised as to why he had returned to the park early in the morning with his parents to look for Son, before contacting Son's parents to let them know their son had disappeared.

The friend's personal information and photos were revealed by internet users, while some claimed that his uncle and father are police officers or other higher ranking government officials and are abusing their power to hide the truth. Such rumors, however, were confirmed as false by the law enforcement authorities.

A rally was held at the riverside park Sunday demanding a thorough police investigation. Over 200 people participated, some among the group claiming that Son was "killed." They urged the police to arrest the friend.

In response to the snowballing rumors, a lawyer representing the friend released a statement Monday refuting the speculation.

"His shoes were old and had vomit on them. His mother threw away the shoes, April 26, as she was not aware of the seriousness of the case, and was not told by the police to keep them," the statement read.

Explaining that his client does not remember why and how he took Son's phone as he was under the influence, the lawyer urged the public to refrain from spreading groundless rumors that defame the deceased's friend and his family.

The lawyer also stressed that they have cooperated with the police from the initial stages of the investigation by submitting to questioning and with the parents handing over their phones for forensic examination.


이효진 lhj@koreatimes.co.kr


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