Why A Korean Teen Spent 10 Years In Prison For A Murder He Didn’t Commit

He is now approaching his 40s.

23 years after he was falsely accused and sentenced for murder, a South Korean man, identified by his surname Choi, finally got the justice he deserved on January 13. On Wednesday, a court ordered the government to compensate Choi, who spent ten years in prison due to miscarriage of justice.

37-year-old Choi (right) with his lawyer

In August 2000, when Choi was just 16 years old, he was convicted of stabbing and killing a 42-year-old taxi driver in Iksan, around 170 kilometers south of Seoul. While he spent a decade of his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the police were aware of the real culprit.

In 2003, the police came to learn about the actual perpetrator, a 40-year-old suspect surnamed Kim. Though he was presented in front of a prosecutor, he was not charged due to an alleged lack of evidence.

Choi was released from prison in 2013, but it wasn’t until 2018 that Kim, the real murderer, was punished by law. The Supreme Court sentenced him to 15 years in prison that year. Refusing to give in to the injustice, Choi filed for a retrial with the court. He stated that he was unlawfully arrested, confined, and forced to falsely confess the crime by the police in 2000. Three years after filing for the retrial, Choi was acquitted of the murder charges.

Legal representatives of Choi at the Seoul Central District Court | The Korea Herald

He then filed a damages suit against the government, the police officer, and the prosecutor who investigated his case. The Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of the now 37-year-old Choi.

The state inflicted irreversible damage on an innocent man, let alone protecting the basic rights of people.

—Seoul Central District Court, January 13

The court ordered the government to pay a financial compensation worth ₩1.30 billion KRW (about $1.05 million USD) to Choi and ₩300 million KRW (about $242,000 USD) to his family. According to the ruling, the police officer who had forced Choi to confess falsely and the prosecutor who dropped the charges against the real culprit also have to bear 20% of the total payment cost.

Source: Yonhap

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