Yoo Young-chul (유영철) (born 18 April 1970) is a South Korean serial killer and self-confessed cannibal. Admitting to murdering 20 people, mostly prostitutes and wealthy old men, the Seoul Central District Court convicted him of 20 murders (one case was dismissed on a technicality. this case at Yimoon-dong had been committed by another serial killer Jeong Nam-gyu). Yoo burned three and mutilated at least 11 of his victims, admitting he ate the livers of some of them. He committed his crimes between September 2003 and July 2004, when he was arrested. Yoo explained his motives in front of a TV camera saying "Women shouldn't be sluts, and the rich should know what they've done."
Yoo married in 1992 and had one son. Yoo was convicted 14 times previously for several different charges, serving a total of seven years in prison prior to his string of murders.
From September to November 2003, Yoo killed several wealthy senior citizens, breaking into their houses and bludgeoning them with a hammer. In each case, Yoo left the appearance of a robbery-homicide, although no money was taken, which confused the police investigators. When the investigation started to intensify, Yoo switched to targeting female masseuses. Yoo was briefly arrested in January 2004, on a minor theft charge but released two days later.
Starting in March 2004, Yoo called prostitutes to his residence in western Seoul and bludgeoned them after having sex with them. His prostitute victims were dismembered and mutilated to hinder their identification. They were buried in the mountains surrounding the city. Police recovered 11 bodies from the mountain behind Bongwon Temple after Yoo's arrest.
During initial interrogations, Yoo confessed to killing 19 people. On July 18, 2004, he admitted to an additional murder: the killing of a 44-year-old male street vendor. Yoo eventually confessed to killing 26 individuals on July 19, 2004, several days after his arrest, although no details were given. The list of purported victims included several individuals that did not match his prior pattern of wealthy seniors or masseuses. Friends of two of the masseuse victims, whose bodies had been recovered, claimed they were not involved in massage therapy, meaning that Yoo could have other, unreported victims. Although the "Rainy Thursday" murderer was active contemporaneously starting in April 2004, stabbing multiple women late at night in southwest Seoul, police were unable to link Yoo to those murders.
Several days later, Yoo also confessed to killing a young woman (a worker in a clothing store) on 6 February 2004 in Imun-dong after he suspected her of being a prostitute. Yoo had approached her for questioning by pretending to be a police officer. Approximately a month after his arrest, Yoo confessed to eating the flesh of his victims, although no evidence to prove this was available.
Arrest for murder
Yoo was taken into custody on 15 July 2004 and confessed to murdering as many as 19 people, initially, specifically targeting affluent senior citizens and masseuses. Yoo had raised suspicions by calling a massage parlor where several employees had recently gone missing after receiving similar phone calls, so the owner of the massage parlor, accompanied by several employees and a single police officer, went to the agreed-upon meeting place. The police officer left before Yoo arrived, and Yoo was apprehended by the employees of the massage parlor. Another police officer placed handcuffs on Yoo after he was detained by the massage parlor employees.
While in custody, Yoo feigned epileptic symptoms and escaped from the police after his restraints were loosened. However, he was re-arrested twelve hours later. Yoo had attempted to escape after being arrested in 2002 for rape by faking an epileptic seizure.
The mother of the Imun-dong murder victim rushed at Yoo with an umbrella when he was brought to the Prosecutor's office later in July, screaming that her daughter would still be alive if the police had captured him earlier. A policeman kicked the mother in the chest to subdue her, claiming that his hands were occupied in holding Yoo.
Based on the content of his apartment, searched after his arrest, there was some speculation that he patterned his killings after several movies, including Public Enemy, Very Bad Things, and Normal Life. Yoo later confessed to being inspired by serial killer Jeong Du-yeong, who had murdered nine wealthy people in Busan from 1999–2000.
Yoo stated his resentment of the rich stemmed from early childhood, when he felt envy of a large house due to his childhood poverty. Yoo's resentment of women stemmed from a lover, who worked as a masseuse, leaving him after learning of his criminal past.
Trial and penalty
Police admitted they had little physical evidence linking Yoo to the murders. Yoo first appeared in court on 6 September 2004, refusing to defend himself, declaring his intention to boycott the remainder of the trial, and apologizing to the victims. Yoo boasted that he had no intention of stopping. When he was forced to return two weeks later, he lunged at the three presiding judges and recanted his confession for the February 2004 Imun-dong murder. He refused to appear at the next court session on 4 October 2004, after attempting suicide the night before. Yoo again disrupted a hearing three weeks later when he tried to attack a spectator who had cursed him, which ended with Yoo signing a statement that he would not cause further commotion.
Prosecutors requested the death penalty, which Yoo thanked them for, and Yoo was sentenced to death on 13 December 2004 for 20 counts of murder (the count of murder for the woman in Imun-dong in February 2004 was thrown out). Prosecutors appealed the verdict to secure the 21st count of murder, but the lower court's sentence was upheld on 8 June 2005 by the Supreme Court.
His case, which appalled South Koreans, has fueled the debate on capital punishment in South Korea. Although the death penalty is still permissible under law, it has not been carried out since 1997. It appeared capital punishment might be abolished prior to Yoo's arrest, but support for the death penalty has grown since learning of his crimes.
The Seoul Central District Court said: "Murders of as many as 20 people are unprecedented in the nation and a very serious crime. The death penalty is inevitable for you in light of the enormous pains inflicted on the families concerned and the entire society."
Yoo is currently detained at the Seoul Detention Center.
List of events and his crimes
- 1988: Theft
- 1991: Theft (sentenced 10 months in prison)
- June 23, 1993: Married his girlfriend
- 1993: Theft (sentenced 8 months in prison)
- October 26, 1994: His son was born
- 1998: Theft, forgery, identity theft (sentenced 2 years in prison)
- 2000: Sexual abuse (rape) (sentenced 3 years 6 months in prison)
- October 27, 2000: Divorced by his wife
- September 11, 2003: Released from prison
- September 24, 2003: Killed first victims
- December 13, 2004: Sentenced to death
- November 9, 2019: Currently imprisoned (execution not yet carried out)
- 1st, September 24, 2003, Gangnam-gu, Seoul: University professor Lee Eun-ok, 72, was stabbed in the neck with a knife. He and his wife, Lee Deok-su, 67, were then beaten to death with a hammer (4 kg).
- 2nd, October 9, 2003, Jongno-gu, Seoul: Kang Eun-sun, 85, was bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Her daughter, Mrs. Lee, 60, and her handicapped grandson, Mr. Go, 35, were killed in the same manner soon afterwards.
- 3rd, October 16, 2003, Gangnam-gu, Seoul: Yoo Joon-hee, 60, was beaten with a hammer. She was later found by her son at 13:30 but died at 14:00.
- 4th, November 18, 2003, Jongro-gu, Seoul: Yoo used his hammer to kill Kim Jong-seok, 87, and the latter’s housekeeper, Ms. Bae, 53. He then accidentally cut himself while attempting to open a safe, so he burned down the house to destroy DNA evidence.
- On December 11, 2003, Yoo met a new girlfriend (escort girl), but she inevitably discovered his criminal record and told him not to see her again. He then decided to kill escort girls as revenge.
- 5th, February 6, 2004, Imun-dong, Seoul: Jeon Hyo-sil, 25, was killed after being stabbed in the chest. Yoo was never convicted of this murder.
- 6th, February 9, 2004: Chung, 47, was killed.
- 7th, March 16, 2004, Mapo-gu, Seoul: Yoo choked Ms. Kwon, 23, to death. He then cut her corpse into pieces and dumped them on a trail near Sogang University.
- 8th, April 14, 2004, Mapo-gu, Seoul: Ahn Jae-sun, 44, a vendor who had scammed Yoo by giving him fake viagra, was wrestled into his own van, handcuffed, and murdered. Yoo sawed the victim’s hands off and disposed of them in a plastic bag. He then set the van on fire.
- 9th, May 2004, Mapo-gu, Seoul: Yoo lured a 25-year-old prostitute to his apartment, bludgeoned her unconscious with his hammer, and decapitated her in his bathroom. He then smashed her head, mutilated her body, and buried her remains near Bongwon Temple in Seodaemun-gu.
- 10th, May 7, 2004, Mapo-gu, Seoul: Yoo killed a 33-year-old prostitute in the same procedure as the 9th crime.
- 11th, June 1, 2004, Mapo-gu, Seoul: Yoo killed a 35-year-old prostitute in the same procedure as the 9th crime.
- 12th, June 9, 2004, Mapo-gu, Seoul: Ms. Jang, 26, was killed in the same procedure as the 9th crime.
- 13th, June 18, 2004, Mapo-gu, Seoul: Ms. Kim, 27, was killed in the same procedure as the 9th crime.
- 14th, June 25, 2004, Mapo-gu, Seoul: Woo Koo-yeon, 28, was killed in the same procedure as the 9th crime.
- 15th, July 2, 2004, Mapo-gu, Seoul: Ms. Kim, 26, was killed in the same procedure as the 9th crime.
- 16th, July 9, 2004 (Aesongi escort), Mapo-gu, Seoul: Go Sun-hee, 24, was killed in the same procedure as the 9th crime.
- 17th, July 13, 2004 (Aesongi escort), Mapo-gu, Seoul: Im Hee-sun, 27, was killed in the same procedure as the 9th crime.
- At 5am, July 15, 2004, Yoo was captured by police near Grand-mart in Mapo-gu, Seoul.
- The Chaser (2008), a feature film loosely based on Yoo's story.