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Clandestine Mission to Identify South Asia Tsunami Victims

Clandestine Mission to Identify South Asia Tsunami Victims

Posted January. 02, 2005 22:37,   


On January 1, at 4:00 p.m. at a morgue in Krabi in southern Thailand, families of Korean victims began to look agitated.

As they were watching pictures of 600 dead bodies through a computer monitor, families spotted corpses that were thought to be the bodies of two missing women, 24-year-old Ji Hyun-jin and 45-year-old Kim Hyung-soon.

Experts from the Department of forensic medicine at the National Institute of Scientific Investigation, and four experts in dactylography from the police quickly gathered at the site. They had arrived in Thailand two days ago, but because the Thai government blocked all access to the dead bodies, they could not do anything.

However, this time, they could not just sit and do nothing. They asked for simple checks of the dead bodies for identification, and promised not to do fingerprint identification.

Thai volunteers took out two dead corpses from the container. The bodies were already decayed.

The fingerprint experts quickly checked the fingers, but the fingerprints were already gone. Less than 10 minutes after the experts began studying the bodies, examining the teeth structure and clothes, Thai police came in, and stopped the team from seeing the body, saying that without an official permit, nobody was given access to the dead bodies.

However, the team revealed that the two corpses were the bodies of Koreans.

“The speed of Thai government in handling the matter is unbelievably slow, and there is no specific procedure of handling things,” said an official at the forensic medicine department. “For the anxious families of the victims, we had to resort to an expedient to identify the corpses,” the official said.

When the reporter asked with a puzzled look how they could identify the dead bodies in such a short time, Police Sergeant Park Hee-chan of the KPSI whispered that they could carry out DNA and fingerprint investigation thanks to a piece of flesh that they took from the dead bodies during the 10 minutes they had with them.

Hyung-June Park lovesong@donga.com