After only six months of marriage, a couple went missing and were never heard from again. With no solid evidence and an uncooperative suspect, will this 2016 case ever be solved?
Prominent Busan theater actress Choi Sung Hee married her husband, Kim Yoon Suk, a restaurant owner, in 2015. After six months of marriage, the two went missing, leaving behind a dog, worried family members, and no solid evidence of any foul play.
On May 27, 2016, Choi Sung Hee was captured on CCTV footage returning home from the grocery store at around 11:30 p.m. There is no CCTV footage of her ever leaving the apartment.
The same night, her husband, who had been reportedly drinking with his coworkers, was seen returning to their apartment at 3:45 a.m. Like his wife, there would be no footage of Kim Yoon Suk ever leaving the apartment.
One week later, the police opened an official investigation to find the missing couple.
Kim Yoon Suk’s father was the person who alerted the police to the couple’s strange disappearance. He was worried after not hearing anything from his son for a few days and called the police on May 31 after hearing from his son’s restaurant staff that Kim Yoon Suk had not been at work since May 28.
But while the father may not have heard anything from the couple, the police’s investigation revealed that the couple’s phones were used to communicate several times before being turned off on June 2.
The first text message was sent from Choi Sung Hee’s phone on May 28, informing the assistant director of the theater that she would not be at rehearsal the following day since she wasn’t feeling well.
The assistant director received another text message from Choi Sung Hee’s phone on May 30 explaining that the actress wouldn’t be able to perform at all because she’d been admitted to the hospital due to an accident “like last time.” Although the assistant director tried to reply, Choi Sung Hee’s phone was disconnected. It’s widely believed that the “accident” referred to Choi Sung Hee having had a history of depression and previously trying to overdose.
The assistant director was notably suspicious of the text messages since Choi Sung Hee typically communicated with them casually, but the last few messages had been sent using extremely formal language.
After a few days, the assistant director was finally able to contact someone who claimed to be Kim Yoon Suk. However, the director admitted they’d never heard his voice before, so they could not confirm or deny the person’s identity. But the assistant director would later share with police that the alleged husband explained his wife was in the hospital and apologized for any inconvenience to their theatrical production.
Notably, the police discovered no records of Choi Sung Hee having been admitted to any hospital, and the last time she had picked up her medication was in March.
Kim Yoon Suk also contacted his restaurant employees during this time, telling them that he would not be able to come into the restaurant for a while but sent them money to keep it running. Although his staff was familiar with his voice, the staff told police that Kim Yoon Suk sounded incredibly exhausted on the phone, leading police to believe that there was a chance the speaker was pretending to be Kim Yoon Suk.
The couple’s phones were turned off on June 2, and the cell phone records placed Kim Yoon Suk’s phone in Busan on that day, while Choi Sung Hee’s phone was far away in Seoul.
On the same day, June 2, the police officially opened up an investigation and entered the couple’s apartment. They noted that there was no evidence to indicate any struggle or a break-in. The police initially suspected the couple had gone on a trip of their own volition since personal belongings like wallets, passports, and laptops were not found in the apartment.
But despite the lack of signs of a struggle, there were also many signs that the couple’s disappearance was not planned. There were unwashed dishes in the sink, and the groceries that Choi Sung Hee had been seen carrying into their apartment were left untouched on the counter. The couple’s car was also still in the apartment’s garage, and, disturbingly, there were still groceries in the car that Choi Sung Hee had not returned back for. Perhaps most alarmingly, the couple’s dog had been left alone and unfed, with feces all over the floor.
The most mysterious clue, or lack thereof, that police found was that despite having at least 70 police officers review the CCTV footage, no one could find any video evidence of the couple ever leaving the apartment.
The police eventually concluded that very few blind spots could have allowed the couple to exit without appearing on any CCTV footage. The general belief is that the couple could have taken the emergency exit stairs to the first floor, which are not covered by any CCTV cameras. However, there is a camera right at the entrance to the stairs, with only a small blind spot that would have required the couple to walk directly under the camera. This means that whoever was responsible for the couple’s disappearance would have needed to be extremely familiar with the camera angles. This further suggests that there couldn’t have been any struggle, or something likely would have been captured on camera.
At first, there seemed to be almost no motive for the couple to have fled or been a target as they didn’t have any financial debt. But Kim Yoon Suk’s coworkers revealed that they believed he had a second phone, kept hidden from his wife, that he used to use to talk to his ex-girlfriend, known as Yoon.
Kim Yoon Suk and Yoon’s relationship allegedly ended due to disagreements between their two families, but Yoon harbored strong feelings for Kim Yoon Suk even after their breakup. Yoon married another man but divorced after one month because her husband allegedly believed she was cheating on him with Kim Yoon Suk.
Yoon eventually got remarried, and she and her new husband moved to Norway. After a miscarriage, Yoon allegedly started contacting Kim Yoon Suk again and blamed him for ruining her life. She reportedly sent threatening messages to Kim Yoon Suk and Choi Sung Hee.
Many people believe that Yoon could be tied to the case as Choi Sung Hee was a few months pregnant at the time of her disappearance, giving Yoon a possible motive. The alleged pregnancy seems plausible as records show that she stopped taking her medication in March.
Yoon had also traveled to South Korea with her husband on May 5, shortly after Choi Sung Hee allegedly announced her pregnancy to her friends. Suspiciously, Yoon did not tell her friends or family that she was in Korea and even stayed in motels and saunas, paying with cash. This indicated to the police that she didn’t want her presence in the country known.
Even more suspiciously, she exchanged her ticket to fly back to Norway earlier than planned on June 7, five days after the police started their official investigation into the couple’s disappearance.
Although Yoon’s involvement in the disappearance seems likely, given the timing and her suspicious behavior, there is no evidence to officially tie Yoon to the couple’s disappearance.
The police would later try to extradite Yoon from Norway, wanting her for questioning, but Yoon was able to fight the request despite being arrested. Because of the lack of solid evidence linking Yoon to the case, the Norwegian court ruled in favor of Yoon, deciding she could not be extradited. The police have to hope Yoon will voluntarily come to South Korea for questioning.
The families of Choi Sung Hee and Kim Yoon Suk are still hopeful for answers, and Yoon’s mother even flew to Norway to try and convince Yoon to answer the police’s questions. But Yoon did not answer any of her mother’s requests.
Yoon seems a likely suspect in the disappearance, possibly even working with Kim Yoon Suk as some believe, because of all the strange mysteries around the case, it isn’t easy to draw any conclusions. It’s equally possible that the couple was fleeing some unknown threat or that they were taken against their will. And since the police have not discovered the couple’s bodies, they have been listed as missing rather than assumed dead.
Hopefully, the couple’s families will be granted some closure, despite the six years without any solutions to the case.