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Killing for Insurance

Posted August. 30, 2005 06:50,   


An incident involving a family of four--a wife and three sons killed in a fire while waiting for their father and husband late at night--turned out to be a gruesome homicide committed by no other than the father and husband after the insurance money.

A worn 25-year-old house and a happily married peaceful couple belied the horror that lurked just beneath.

The impeccable surface that misled the police to investigate a short circuit appalled them all the more as the grisly truth of the crime was discovered.

Telephone Records Were the Clue-

The traditional Korean tile-roofed house of Gwak (72, female) at Daejeon caught fire around 11:00 p.m., August 18, killing all tenants, including Kim (34• female) and her ten, eight, and three-year-old sons inside.

Feigning to arrive home late, Kim’s husband Jang (35) saw the charred room and despaired, “There’s no reason to live without you!” while pacing wildly.

The police sized up the incident as a family suicide or short circuit fire case. On investigating cellular phone records on August 21, however, they discovered that Jang did not call his wife as he stated and listed him as a suspect.

On August 25, the National Institute of Scientific Investigation detected potassium cyanide and thinner components in the digestive tracts and clothes of Kim and the children.

On Jang’s office computer, the police found traces of more than 80 links to suicide, assassin, and cyanide related websites. It was also discovered that early this month Jang subscribed to two foreign insurance companies under his and his wife’s name, so that he would receive 600 million won upon her death.

Led by these clues, the police interrogated Jang exhaustively until he confessed to the murder, repeating these words, “I was wrong. I just want to die,” over and over again.

Fire Disguise-

Investigative reports stated that Jang woke up on the morning of August 18 at 8:10 a.m., reached for a water bottle in the refrigerator, took one gulp, and poured in the prepared cyanide. He used his family’s habit of drinking water first thing in the morning.

Ten minutes later, Kim and two eldest sons drank from the bottle and collapsed. Jang strangled the toddler who did not drink the water. The child slapped and resisted his father as choked, but he died.

Jang then reported to his office at 9:20 a.m., and proceeded to work as usual. He worked as a deliveryman for a company that supplied ingredients to pubs.

At 1:30 p.m., he dropped by his house, ascertained his family’s deaths, and continued to work throughout the afternoon. Then, in order to make an alibi, he made six or seven calls to his home.

After Jang got off work and arrived home at 7:30 p.m., he sprayed thinner on the laundry piled on the living room floor and set it on fire. He then headed for a PC-Bang (Internet Café) 500 meters from his home, played go-stop card games, called home at 10:50, and went home.

The Motive-

Jang confessed in the cross-examination, “My repeated business failures wasted the family assets, and debts kept growing, so I tried to rip off my insurance provider.”

Jang graduated from an industrial high school in Daejeon and married Kim during his training practice in Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi. He was given money from his father to operate a cellular phone store and a grocery store, but they failed and he lost his credit in April. His bank debts equaled to 35,000,000 won.

Jang subscribed to an insurance policy early this month. When his wife asked him why he signed up for insurance that cost 300,000 won monthly, he brushed it off, saying, “The company headquarters pays for it.”

The Daejeon Jungbu Police arrested Jang for murder and corpse damage on August 29.

Meanwhile, after tracking down the other three cooperative buyers of the 10 grams of potassium cyanide worth 1,000,000 won that Jang found on a suicide website, it was revealed that one buyer named Park (25•female) committed suicide at a motel in Busan.

Myung-Hun Jee mhjee@donga.com