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5 movies and dramas based on the Hwaseong serial murders

After remaining unsolved for 33 years, South Korean police announced on Sept 18, 2019 that they had identified the prime suspect of the Hwaseong serial murders.

These murder cases rocked South Korean society from 1986 to 1991 as they soon realised that they could be looking at the country’s first serial killer.

Female victims’ ages ranged from 13 to 71, and were usually found bound, raped and murdered in Hwaseong, south of Seoul.

Most of the victims had been strangled to death; many with their own clothes.

Their bodies were found in different places including pastureland, canals, rice paddy fields and embankments.

Using the latest forensic techniques to retrieve DNA, officers managed to identify 56-year-old Lee Chun-jae as a suspect in at least three of the killings. Lee was already serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of his sister-in-law in 1994.

As of October 15, Lee’s status has been changed from ‘suspect’ to ‘accused’. Despite the statute of limitations having expired for all the Hwaseong serial murders, police have sent his case to prosecutors. The police had retained key evidence and samples all this while in the hopes of solving these heinous murders.

Often compared to Zodiac Killer cases as they had never been solved before, the Hwaseong serial murders have been portrayed several times in popular culture.

Here are 5 movies and dramas evoked by the Hwaseong serial murders:
1.Memories of Murder (2003)

This movie is the most famous portrayal of the Hwaseong serial murders in popular culture.

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Besides its cinematography, Sang Kang-ho’s performance as Detective Park Doo-man gained wide praise from movie buffs.

It is set in 1986 in the province of Gyunggi where a second young and beautiful woman is found dead, raped and gagged with her own underwear.

The movie circles around Park, a small town policeman and his partner Cho Yong-koo (Kim Roi-ha) who use brutality to solve the case.

Then comes Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-kyung) into the picture. He may be younger than Park but he is experienced enough to help Park with the investigation.

Memories of Murder have a few similarities with the real events of the Hwaseong serial murders.

For instance, the fact that the victims were gagged with their underwear was drawn from the case.

In the movie, however, the DNA evidence was sent to US for analysis compared to the Hwaseong serial murders where evidence had been sent to Japan.

Just like in the real cases, the DNA results did not match any of the suspects back then.

2.Confession of Murder (2012)

Imagine if the killer had published a tell-all book about how he committed all the murders after the statute of limitation expired, knowing that he would not be prosecuted.

In this movie, Lee Du-seok (Park Si-hoo) does exactly that, describing all his killings in detail.

Detective Choi (Jung Jae-young), who investigated the murders 15 years prior starts to hunt the killer again.

Meanwhile, Han Ji-soo (Kim Young-ae), who lost her daughter to the serial killer pledges revenge.

At the same time, another killer appears, casting doubt on who the real killer is.

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So who is the real killer? Is Du-Seok just an impostor or is the other killer just a copycat?

Full of suspense, this movie is also about the victims families who take matters into their own hands after believing authorities had failed them.

3.Gap-dong (2014)

This 20-episode drama is set in the fictional city of Iltan in Gyeonggi Province. After a total of nine murders within a 12-kilometer radius over three years, the police conclude the man behind the crimes is a guy they nicknamed ‘Gap-dong’.

Detective Yang (Sung Dong-il) believes the killer is an intellectually challenged man named Ha Il-sik.

To prove his innocence, Ha commits suicide. Subsequently, his son Moo-yeom (Yoon Sang-hyun) becomes a police officer to clear his father’s name.

After 17 years, a string of crimes resembling Gap-dong’s murders occur. Is it committed by the same murderer or a copycat?

This time, Detective Yang and Moo-yeom have to put aside their pasts and work together to catch Gap-dong.

4.Tunnel (2017)

In 1986, Detective Park Gwang-ho (Choi Jin-hyuk) tries to catch a serial killer. While chasing the serial killer, he enters a tunnel.

When he emerges from the other side of the tunnel, Detective Park finds himself in the year 2016.

He then realises the serial killer has continued killing after 30 years. This time, he needs to work with Detective Kim Seon-jae (Yoon Hyun-min) and a criminal psychological counselor Shin Jae-yi (Lee Yoo-young).

You can watch the drama legally here for free.

5.Signal (2016)

Starring Lee Je-hoon, Kim Hye-soo and Cho Jin-woong, this drama has not only drawn from the Hwaseong serial murders but also other real-life crimes in South Korea.

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The plot starts when a mysterious walkie talkie shows up, allowing a detective in the year 2000 to communicate with a cold case profiler in 2015.

Together, they not only solve crimes but prevent some cases from ever taking place.

Signal (2016) is one of the highest rated Korean dramas in cable television history. There is even a Japanese remake of the drama which premiered in 2018.

Watch this drama on Viu here.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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