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South Korea's most prolific serial killers

South Korean flag overlayed with an image of local police

South Korea is one of the most advanced, wealthiest and culturally significant nations on the planet. So, should we be surprised that the Southeast Asian country has been home to several prolific serial killers?

Let’s take a look at the very worst South Korean serial killers.

Yoo Young-chul - 19+ victims

The Republic of South Korea is known, affectionately, as ‘The Land of the Morning Calm’. However, there’s nothing calm about the chaos caused by the rapist, serial killer and cannibal Yoo Young-chul.

Predating on young female sex workers and wealthy elderly women, Yoo claimed the lives of at least 19 women between 2003 and 2004. He would often burn his victims’ bodies.

On being caught, Yoo showed no remorse for his sickening crimes. He claimed that the abject poverty in which he grew up made him despise the rich and his hatred towards young women stemmed from having been spurned by lovers as a young man.

Lee Choon-jae - 15 victims

Ask any Korean about serial killings and their thinking will likely turn to the Hwaseong serial murders in the Gyeonggi province city between 1986 and 1994. During that time, 15 young women and girls were raped and killed, with many others sexually assaulted.

Police were at a loss for years as to who was behind the crimes. They claimed to have put over two million combined ‘man-days’ into the case, taking the fingerprints of over 40,000 men and considering more than 20,000 people as suspects.

It wasn’t until 2019 that Lee Choon-jae was identified as the killer through DNA. He was convicted a year later and sentenced to life in prison. He has since said that he will not apply for parole and has accepted that he will die in jail.

Jeong Nam-gyu - 13 victims

Throughout Jeong Nam-gyu's life, he had stabbed, strangled and bludgeoned 13 women to death. The killer frequently changed up his weapons, method of killing and general MO in order to confuse authorities.

He admitted, after being caught, that he regarded his killings as a calling and took his ‘career’ very seriously. He worked out and lifted weights regularly to stay physically fit and strong so he could remain a capable attacker. Jeong admitted to being inspired by the murders of Lee Choon-jae. He was also an avid fan of the Dr. Hannibal Lector books and their film adaptations.

In November 2009, Jeong hung himself in his cell at the Seoul Detention Centre.

Kang Ho-sun - 10 victims

Currently awaiting execution at the Seoul Detention Centre, Kang Ho-sun was convicted for his crimes back in 2009. He was indicted on ten counts of murder; his victims were his wife, mother-in-law and eight female strangers. He was known to pray on women who were alone at bus stops or drunk outside karaoke bars, an MO that has often seen him referred to as ‘The South Korean Ted Bundy’.

Remorseless on arrest and in prison, Kang has long spoken of his desire to write a book about his crimes, detailing how he set the fire that claimed the lives of his fourth wife and her mother. He intended to give any advances, payment and royalties to his son, but his plan has been unsuccessful to date.

Technically, Kang is still on the Korean version of Death Row, but a moratorium on the death sentence has been in place in the country since 1997.

Jeong Du-yeong - 9 victims

In 1986, aged just 18 years old, Busan-born Jeong Du-yeong carried out his first murder. Given a relatively short prison sentence due to his age and lack of previous offences, Jeong was soon out back on the street.

Once out, Jeong embarked on a full-time criminal career, his stint inside clearly not having the desired effect in terms of rehabilitation. Various arrests for petty crimes followed for over a decade, until he started his callous murder spree.

Between June 1999 and April 2000, in a series of violent robberies, Jeong killed a further eight people until he was eventually apprehended by police. A conviction followed and he was given the death sentence. He is currently in Daejeon Prison where he’ll likely stay until he dies.