Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Yoo Young-cheol, South Korea's Brutal Serial Killer

Starving Artist

Yoo was born on April 18, 1970, into a blue collar family in the village of Waha in Gochang County in the north Cheolla province.  He was an unexpected baby. His parents didn't want him, and years later, he was told by his grandmother that his mother considering killing him.  His parents separated, and in his early years he was raised by his grandmother.  When he was six years old, he moved to Seoul to live with his father.  His father was a Vietnam War veteran and he returned with a large savings from his soldier's pay.  He gambled most of it away on poor business speculations.  In Seoul, he ran a comic book shop, a place where people could rent stacks of comic books to devour in one sitting.

Yoo's elementary school
Yoo's elementary school

The Mapo district, where he lived, was a poor area with no electricity and running water, and residents had to get water from a public well.  Yoo had two older brothers and a younger sister.  One brother eventually ran away from home.  His father had a replacement for his mother, and the stepmother savagely beat Yoo's sister.  She never hit Yoo because he unnerved her so much from staring at her for hours with contempt and hate.


When he was eight years old, Yoo and his sister ran away from home to go live with their mother, who also lived in Mapo.  Yoo attended the Seoul Gongdeok Elementary School, and records indicate he was quiet and polite, always using the honorific form of address when speaking to his elders.  He was responsible at such a young age because adults weren't around much, and he took charge of the household chores.  Poverty was a part of his life and it deeply affected him.  Schoolkids brought their own lunch to school in those days.  Once he only brought a glob of sticky rice mixed with bean paste for lunch, and his schoolmates mocked him by saying, "You brought sh— for lunch!"

Sometimes he missed his father and he visited him.  Around that time his father had broken up with second wife and deteriorated into an alcoholic.  When  his father died in a car accident, Yoo focused his academic energies enough to be one of the top students in his class.  After his arrest, Yoo told investigators that when he was a boy there was a large expensive house near his home and he yearned to live in such a place.  He was insecure about being from a poor family and that later morphed into his eventual hatred toward the wealthy.  The rich, he thought, were to blame for his miserable life.

He entered middle school in 1984.  Although Yoo claims he has an IQ of 140, his school records indicate it is around 95-100.  Early on, Yoo felt drawn to the arts. He has many scars on his left hand from woodcarving mishaps.  He is colorblind, but likes painting and reads poetry.  He loved to sing and at one time was in a gospel group at a church.  With his friends, he formed a singing group called "Evergreen" to compete in a talent contest.  He was a good all-around athlete but he sometimes passed out from overexertion.  His friends speculated that it was from a meager diet that didn't provide enough energy. 


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