Seoul murder suspect felt 'belittled by women'

SEOUL • The suspect in the murder of a young woman in Seoul's upmarket Gangnam district has been indicted, in a case that triggered a public outcry over fears of violent misogyny in South Korea.

Hundreds of mourners attended a candlelight vigil after the 23-year-old victim was stabbed to death by a stranger at a public bathroom in May.

Police said the 34-year-old suspect in custody, identified only by his surname Kim, had told them he carried out the attack because he felt "belittled by women".

Prosecutors yesterday said they believed a key trigger behind the murder of the random female victim happened two days before the killing, when the suspect said a cigarette butt tossed by a passing woman had landed on his shoe, Yonhap news agency reported.

The suspect told prosecutors women had caused him a lot of stress, according to Yonhap.

Kim was diagnosed with acute schizophrenia in 2009 and had been repeatedly admitted to hospital. However, he had stopped taking medication in January when he discharged himself.

Seoul Central District prosecutors yesterday alleged the suspect murdered the woman because he suffered from an untreated mental illness, Yonhap reported.

Prosecutors said their investigation showed Kim was mentally unstable at the time of the murder and should have been in hospital.

But they said it was "difficult" to categorise the murder as a hate crime against women.

"The defendant does seem to have hostility against women, but there was no evidence of him holding indiscriminate prejudice against women," an unnamed prosecutor was quoted by Yonhap as saying.

However, prosecutors said Kim had showed no signs of remorse or guilt.

South Korea generally has a low violent crime rate, but cases of sexual assault have increased in recent years and women's groups argue that entrenched gender discrimination in a patriarchal society is a prime cause.

A subway station exit near the scene of the stabbing was turned into a mini shrine by thousands leaving piles of flowers and covering its outer walls with messages written on sticky notes.

In 2013, President Park Geun Hye directed the police to focus on combating four "social evils" - the first two being sexual violence and domestic violence.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Seoul murder suspect felt 'belittled by women''. Print Edition | Subscribe