Following the phenomenal success of the thriller ‘Parasite’, past works by director Bong Joon Ho have been brought back into the spotlight. One movie in particular, after being the catalyst in the reinvestigation of one of the most frightening series of serial murders in South Korean history, is leading the pack with the capture and confession by the actual murderer that inspired the movie.
In 2003, then 34-year-old director Bong Joon Ho released his second ever feature film that he was both the director and writer of. The film, ‘Memories of Murder’ ended up being lauded as one of the best films of the 21st century as well as one of the most revered murder mystery films of all time. The screenplay was adapted by Bong and Shim Sung-bo (a South Korean film director and screenwriter) from a 1996 stage play and is loosely based on the real events that transpired between 1986 and 1991, in the province of Hwaseong, South Korea. At the time of the movie’s release, the criminal behind the gruesome crimes had yet to be caught.
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Fast forward to 2020 – after being linked to the murders in July last year (thanks to DNA matching samples recovered from the murder scenes), 57-year-old Lee Chun Jae who confessed to the gruesome murders of 14 different women and girls (aged between aged 14 to 71) is now revealing more information surrounding the case. For the first time since 1986, the man behind what is now known as ‘the Hwaseong murders’ (and the inspiration for ‘Memories of Murder’) has publicly spoken about the first serial murders in the country’s history.
Lee, who has been serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of his sister-in-law, expressed his shock at having gotten away for the murders (also known as the’Hwaseong murders’) for over three decades. During the retrial of a Mr Yoon (who was convicted of one of the 10 murders and spent 20 years in prison for the crime), Lee confessed to even carrying one of the victims watches with him when he bumped into policemen who were investigating the case at the time.
“I still don’t understand [why I wasn’t a suspect]. Crimes happened around me and I didn’t try hard to hide things so I thought I would get caught easily. There were hundreds of police forces. I bumped into detectives all the time but they always asked me about people around me.”
The retrial for the wrongly convicted Yoon (who for years, claimed innocence) was for the charge in relation to the killing of a 13-year-old girl. However, Lee has since confessed to the murder. According to CNN, Lee said the girl’s murder was “an impulsive act” and was further described as having no”reason for killing the 13-year-old and showed no emotion as he described how he killed her.”
As for why he’s chosen now to confess to his crimes, Lee says,
“I heard that many people had been investigated and wrongfully suffered. I’d like to apologize to all those people. I came and testified and described the crimes in hopes for (the victims and their families) to find some comfort when the truth is revealed. I’ll live my life with repentance.”
Yoon, who has a limp from childhood polio, has accused the police of using torture during the investigation and along with the recent revelations in the case, Gyeonggi Nambu Provicial Police Agency chief Bae Yong Ju has acknowledged and apologised for the assault and coercion that Yoon had been subject to from the police during the initial investigation in back in 1989. As for Lee, unfortunately, he will not be prosecuted for any of the crimes as the statute of limitations (the law that sets the maximum time the parties involved have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offence) on all of the cases has expired.
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Following his arrest, Bong shared:
“When I made the film, I was very curious, and I also thought a lot about this murderer. I wondered what he look[ed] like. I was able to see a photo of his face. And I think I need more time to really explain my emotions from that, but right now I’d just like to applaud the police force for their endless effort to find the culprit.”
*Cover image credit: Instagram