Two Korean College Students Died, But Only One Is Receiving Heavy News Coverage — Here’s Why

The unfortunate case of class, status and wealth.

Within a span of a couple days, two male college students’ lives were tragically taken in two separate cases. One student’s death has been receiving an overwhelming response from the public, with constant news coverage and never-ending posts on online communities. The other student’s death, however, has been seeing less interest, with its story being swept under the rug.

Lee Seon Ho (left), Son Jeong Min (right) | MBC News, News1

Son Jeong Min was a 22-year-old medical student who went missing on April 24 after he went drinking with a friend at Han River Park. Five days after his initial missing person’s report, his body was found in the Han River.

Ever since the news of his death, the nation reacted quickly with consistent media reports and headlines being made about him. His photos began circulating and his story was told all over the internet, whether it was on official news websites or online communities. Korean netizens created petitions to ensure that his case would be solved and that his friend, who was with him on the night of his disappearance, would be investigated. Son Jeong Min’s case, which has earned itself the nickname, “Han River Student Case” went on to become the nation’s case.

Son Jeong Min | JoongAng Ilbo

In comparison, Lee Seon Ho was a 23-year-old college student. On April 22, Lee Seon Ho was tragically killed in a work-related accident, involving a 300 kilogram (661 pounds) iron plate. He was working part-time at a container cargo company to make money for his college tuition and other living expenses.

On the day of his death, Lee Seon Ho was asked by his superiors to clean the bottom of one of the containers. While he was cleaning, he was crushed by the door of another open container. Rather than helping him out immediately, his superiors instead reported the accident to the company’s higher-ups. He was only taken to the hospital after the report got made — and Lee Seon Ho shortly succumbed to his injuries and passed away.

Lee Seon Ho | Huffington Post Korea

While Lee Seon Ho’s case also received some attention due to the tragic circumstance of his death, his story has not been receiving as much attention as Son Jeong Min’s. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that the difference in the amount of attention paid to these students’ cases is due to the difference in their class and social standing, with many (and potentially rightly) asserting that equal attention should be paid to both cases.

Lee Seon Ho related articles (left), Son Jeong Min related articles (right) | Google

After some research, it was reported that Son Jeong Min was a medical student who came from an affluent family. As his death continued to make headlines, his background came to light and netizens quickly figured out that his father worked as a product executive at Samsung‘s corporate office.

It was also further revealed that his “Friend A” who he had been drinking with at Han River park was also the son of an affluent family. Rumors began to circulate that A’s father was a professor at a prestigious university or a lawyer at a self-owned law firm. Netizens immediately connected the two and concluded that Son Jeong Min surrounded himself with wealth and power due to his father.

Son Jeong Min’s father at his funeral | JoongAng

On the other hand, Lee Seon Ho came from a much different background than Son Jeong Min. It’s been reported by Lee Seon Ho’s friends that he was working part-time at the cargo company so that he could earn money for his own college tuition in an effort to alleviate his family’s finance burdens.

In addition to that, Lee Seon Ho took care of his father and his older sister, who was reported to have been battling a longtime illness. It was also reported that he applied for many jobs as soon as he was released from his mandatory military service so that he could support himself in college. Lee Seon Ho came from a lower income background and is said to have gone through constant struggles due to his family’s financial troubles.

Lee Seon Ho’s father at his funeral | Huffington Post Korea

With that said, there has been a noticeable contrast between the two students’ deaths and the police’s approach to the cases. Medical student Son Jeong Min’s case has taken the police by storm, with the police department pouring in all their resources to ensure that every piece of potential evidence is being secured. From CCTV footages to random witnesses, and even vehicle login reports, the police department has been combing through every possibility. News reports have been getting released on a daily basis updating the nation on the police’s progress and their newest findings.

Police at Han River Park | News1

Lee Seon Ho’s case, however, has not been seeing the same efforts. While the difference in the circumstances of the two students’ deaths are big factors, the police have not been treating Lee Seon Ho’s case with the same efforts as Son Jeong Min’s. Lee Seon Ho was crushed to death due to an accident that could have been easily prevented if there were safety measures taken at the company.

It was also further reported that Lee Seon Ho had never cleaned the bottom of a container before, nor was he ever trained on the appropriate method to ensure his safety. As his family and friends continue to speak out on the company’s obvious neglect on safety precautions, it has been reported that the police department is turning a blind eye to these requests.

Lee Seon Ho’s friends and family protesting his wrongful death | Yonhap News

As the contrasts continue, netizens are beginning to notice the difference between the two college students’ deaths. They have started to express their frustrations with the way the public and the media are treating the deaths differently.

| Insight
  • “Such a bitter feeling…the medical student’s case is being reported everyday, but I haven’t seen much on this one.”
  • “Why do you think there is so much attention on the medical student who died after a night of drinking versus this student’s tragic death?”
  • “This case needs to gain more attention and not the Han River medical student’s case…why does it feel like there is a difference in media regarding the two deaths.”
  • “The medical student died after drinking throughout the night with his friend (if you didn’t know any better, you would’ve thought he died after rescuing people or something) but this student, who died in an accident trying to earn his own tuition money while working at a part-time job, his story is more tragic. However, any youthful death always garners the same amount of sadness.”
  • “The son of a wealthy family who died after partying and drinking is always referred to as a medical student. His story has been in the news daily and the entire nation has been grieving and mourning his death while the tragic accident of the other student has only been on one page of the newspaper. I wonder where the problem lies in society where we give importance and attention to one death. Even this report is in a media site that’s not official. It’s all in the trash reporters hands. Rest in peace to Lee Seon Ho.”
Lee Seon Ho (left), Son Jeong Min (right) | Huffington Post Korea, JoongAng

Lee Seon Ho and Son Jeong Min’s cases are both equally tragic and heartbreaking. Their lives were abruptly taken and our condolences go out to both of their families. May they rest in peace.

Source: theqoo and Naver News