Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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


In November, around the time he killed the elderly man and his housekeeper, Yoo called one of those numbers.  It was a phone sex establishment. He got to know a woman there, Ms. Kim, and it seemed like she was interested in him.  Eventually their relationship reached a point where Yoo proposed to her, but by this time she learned of his criminal past, mental instability, and divorce, and she flatly rejected him.  For Yoo, it was stunning.

His divorce made him bitter, and he even entertained the idea of killing his ex-wife but dropped it, thinking of his 11-year old son.  He dwelled on the jobs of his ex-wife and old girlfriend; the former was a masseuse, the latter was a phone sex worker.

Seodaemun police station
Seodaemun police station

In January, Yoo was arrested for a theft at a sauna and held briefly at the Sodaemun Police Station.  They did not check his criminal record, which would have revealed Yoo served a total of 11 years in prison for 14 different crimes of fraud, assault and theft. They released him thinking he was a petty thief and failed to connect him to the spate of killings throughout the metropolis.

It could have been his release from police custody in January that gave him the confidence to start killing again.  On February 6 at 7:00 p.m., Yoo took a taxi to the Imoon-dong neighborhood and hunted for a victim. Yoo approached Ms. Jeon, 25, in front of a restaurant that was twenty meters from a busy main four-lane street. He thought she looked like a prostitute.

It was a quiet spot in an alley and sleet was falling. He asked her where she was going.  "I'm going shopping," she said.  He showed her a forged police ID card and asked her to go to a bar with him.  But she didn't trust him. "You're not a cop, you crazy bastard," she replied.  Enraged, Yoo went after her. She tried to run away from Yoo, almost reaching a restaurant door, and she fell down yelling for help.  He stabbed her five times in the chest.  No longer was he interested in lethal rages against the rich; he now hated the young attractive women who worked in the sex trade.

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