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Murder of boy traced to cult that adores Jindos

Apr 15,2017
A woman who leads a cult that worships Jindo dogs allegedly killed the 3-year-old son of a member of the cult because he cried too much.

It took the Seoul police three years to get a lead and make an arrest.

“She said she hit the boy because he was taken over by an evil spirit,” said Oh Jee-hyung, chief of the crime department at the Gangseo Police Precinct in western Seoul in a press conference.

The boy was reported missing by his mother, a 41-year-old surnamed Choi, in August 2014. Choi said she lost her son at a crosswalk near the New Core Department Store in Bucheon, Gyeonggi, in July 2014. When police asked why she didn’t report the case immediately, she didn’t answer.

Suspecting her account, police investigated. They discovered that Choi lived with a religious cult, and thought they may get some answers if they could find members who had left the cult.

Earlier this year they found one.

“I used to live with this group that worshipped Jindo dogs, and while I was with the group, they killed a boy, around 3 years old at the time, and buried him,” a 71-year-old woman surnamed Kim told police. “They have around 10 Jindo dogs and consider the dogs to be spirits to be worshipped.”

Police then questioned Choi, the mother.

“At first she said that she killed the boy herself,” a police officer said. “But when we continued to question her, she admitted that the leader of the sect killed the boy.”

According to police, Choi started living with the leader of the cult, a 53-year-old woman surnamed Kim, at a house in Hwagok-dong, western Seoul, around April 2014. Choi brought her son and 6-year-old daughter into the house after splitting with their father.

“This group usually does not allow children, but Kim was gracious enough to accept us all,” Choi told police.

Around 11 a.m. on July 7, 2014, Choi’s son was crying in the living room of the house. Choi was elsewhere.

Kim said the boy was “taken over” by an evil spirit. She dragged him into a room and hit him with a wooden spatula for some 30 minutes. She hit him on his arms, legs, head and face, according to police.

She emerged from the room, handed the spatula to Choi, and told her to “spank him a little more,” police said.

Choi found her son unconscious on the floor. There was blood around his mouth, she said. He stopped breathing.

That day, Kim and Choi drove the boy’s body to Wanju County, where two members of the cult group, a 55-year-old surnamed Ahn and his 49-year-old wife surnamed Lee, lived. Kim and Choi arrived around 7 p.m. The four cult members buried the boy on a mountain nearby. Kim and Choi returned to Seoul.

Three days later, Ahn called Kim to tell her that wild boars were digging around the site of the burial. Choi and Kim drove down again, dug up the boy’s body and burned it. They ground down the bones and scattered them in a river in Imsil County, police said.

Police arrested Kim, Choi, Ahn and Lee last week.

Former members of the cult told police that Kim, its leader, often said, “There is a spirit living within Jindo dogs.”

The cult moved from the house in Hwagok-dong to a residence in Yongin, Gyeonggi, two years ago. But neighbors in Hwagok-dong remembered Kim and the members.

“I would see two to three middle-aged women carrying Jindo dogs, fully grown and quite large, in their arms, and sometimes they pushed the dogs in baby strollers,” said a 48-year-old surnamed Yoon, who runs a store near the villa. “I used to wonder, ‘Who on earth are these people who treat their dogs like kings?’”

“All we have uncovered for now is that around 10 members of the cult live together, and an outsider is funding them with some 200,000 to 300,000 won [$175 to $263] a month,” Oh said.

Police said Choi’s daughter is living with her father.

BY KIM NA-HAN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]