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Woman and daughter are found dead in reservoir

Aug 30,2017
The bodies of a woman and her teenage daughter were found inside their vehicle in a reservoir in South Jeolla on Monday. Police suspect they committed suicide after a long struggle with poverty.

A passerby spotted the car in the reservoir in Jangseong County, South Jeolla, Monday morning and called police.

Police and fire fighters used a crane to haul the vehicle out of the water, and found the bodies inside, which they identified as a 46-year-old surnamed Kim and her 19-year-old daughter. The two lived in Gwangju. Jangseong is where Kim’s mother lives.

Police did not find a suicide note.

The reservoir is about one meter (3.2 feet) below the road next to it, and for the car to have jumped into it, it needed to have driven some 50 meters over a patch of grass. The grass showed signs of tire marks, ending where the reservoir begins.

The last time Kim’s car was spotted on CCTV footage was on Friday around 12:20 p.m. on a road in Jangseong. Police suspect the two died on Friday, the deadline for the daughter’s university tuition submission.

According to authorities, Kim and her daughter, her only child, were living together.

Kim reportedly separated from her husband seven years ago. The couple is not legally divorced.

Kim and her daughter lived in an apartment in Gwangju, paying 500,000 won ($443) monthly rent.

“Kim used to work at a nursery, but she couldn’t continue working because of a skin condition,” said Kim’s acquaintance. “As I understand it, she had struggled economically since then.”

“Kim’s daughter asked a cousin to lend her 5 million won to pay her tuition,” a police officer said. “But it seems that the cousin was also struggling economically and couldn’t help her out.

“As of now,” the officer added, “we think Kim and her daughter committed suicide after failing to find a way out financially.”

Kim and her daughter were not recipients of the national basic living subsidy.

“We need to investigate the case further before we can determine why Kim and her daughter couldn’t qualify as recipients of the national basic living subsidy,” said a social worker of a district office in Gwangju.

“It’s possible that Kim couldn’t submit information on her separated husband’s assets, which is needed for the qualification process.”

For citizens to qualify as a recipient of the national basic living subsidy, they need to prove that they cannot work - for reasons including illness - and that their assets fall below the minimum livelihood level announced every year by the Minister of Health and Welfare.

It may be that Kim’s possession of an automobile, as well as the assets of her separated husband, may have barred her from qualifying as a recipient of the basic living subsidy.

Authorities submitted the bodies to the National Forensic Service for autopsy.

Police said they will continue to investigate if the two had any other reasons to attempt suicide.

BY KIM HO, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]