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Prison break by `rubber man`

Posted September. 20, 2012 05:03,   


On Jan. 20, 1997, Shin Chang-won, an inmate at Busan Prison, went missing. Two bars on the ventilation hole in the bathroom of his cell were found to have been removed. Shin had made thorough preparation to escape the prison, stealing two hacksaws at a prison workship under his shoes and returning to his cell. To muffle the noise from sawing the bars, he sawed them from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., when the prison played music. When he finished sawing for the day, he put chewing gum on the severed parts to fool prison guards. Shin also went from 80 kilograms to 60 kilograms so that he could fit through the narrow ventilation hole measuring 33 centimeters across and 30 centimeters long.

The techniques for escaping from prison can be beyond imagination. In “Prison Break,” a popular U.S. TV series that was also popular in Korea, the hero, a talented architect named Michael, hatched a plan to get his elder brother Lincoln out of prison after the latter was given the death penalty on a trumped-up charge. After tattooing the architectural design of the prison on his whole body, Michael robbed a bank with the intent of getting caught and sent to prison. The two brothers removed the toilet in their cell and escaped through the drain. "The Shawshank Redemption” is another story about a prison escape. A pinned-up photo of the Hollywood starlet Rita Hayworth was hanged on the prison cell wall of the protagonist Andy. Upon hearing his escape, the warden rushes to the cell and removes the pinned-up photo to find a hole through which Andy escaped.

In Hong Kong, a thief nicknamed “the rubber man” in the 1970s was in solitary with just a single window at Victoria Prison. He feigned illness and was taken to a medical room. He tied up the doctor, and stood by a small window of less than 20 centimeters across. His straight waist was bended, and with tapping sound, he had his shoulders drawn down as if the bones were dislocated from the shoulder and folded onto his chest. His chest and head got folded in. The rubber man’s body was shrunk into half and slipped out through the window.

Convict Choi Gap-bok, with 25 convictions, escaped from the holding cell at Dongbu Police Station in Daegu through a rectangular meal hole measuring 45 centimeters wide and 15 centimeters long while a guard was dozing. An adult’s head passed through a narrow path measuring 4-5 centimeters long, which is smaller than the length of an adult’s palm. Choi`s escape is especially mind boggling considering that he is 165 centimeters tall and weighs just 52 kilograms. He covered pillows with blankets to make guards think that he was sleeping, and seems to have learned this technique from "The Shawshank Redemption." The space between security bars on household windows as well as the meal hole at holding cells might need to be narrowed to adjust to the size of a “rubber man."

Editorial Writer Song Pyeong-in (pisong@donga.com)