The Korea Herald


State urged to apologize for innocent man's imprisonment and torture

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Feb. 21, 2024 - 16:05

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Members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic of Korea, participate in a meeting on Feb.6 in Seoul. (Yonhap) Members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic of Korea, participate in a meeting on Feb.6 in Seoul. (Yonhap)

A state-run commission on Wednesday officially recommended that the South Korean government apologize to a 68-year-old man named Lee Sang-chul, who was falsely accused of being the culprit of a 1980 kidnap and murder case and tortured into a false confession.

"We have verified the fact that police had imprisoned Lee without proper legal procedures, such as having an arrest warrant issued, and tortured him," the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic of Korea said, pointing out that the police abused their authority and violated the Constitution.

It urged the National Police Agency to formally apologize to Lee and take measures to compensate him.

Lee requested the commission reveal the truth about his case back in 2022, more than three decades after he sustained permanent injuries and life-long trauma from police brutality.

On Nov. 13, 1980, a 13-year-old middle school student named Lee Yun-sang was kidnapped and killed, and kidnapper used the boy's recorded voice to trick investigators into believing he was still alive. The incident garnered nationwide interest, with even then-President Chun Doo-hwan commenting on the matter.

Chun famously said "If Yun-sang lives, you (kidnapper) live. If he dies, you die” on TV. The kidnapper later turned out to be Ju Yeong-hyeong, a teacher at the victim's school, who was sentenced to death and executed in 1983.

But before Ju was caught in November of 1981, desperate police officials attempted to close the case by pinning the blame on Lee Sang-chul, then a young butcher who lived next door to the boy's family. In September of 1981, officers took Lee to a nearby inn and tortured him for days, forcing him to falsely confess to murder.

One of the detectives even poked him in his right eye with his finger, blinding him permanently.

The court cleared Lee's charges in December of 1981 after the real culprit was apprehended, but he was never compensated for the pain he suffered nor did he receive an official apology.