Man Versus Octopus — Korea’s Most Bizarre Murder Case

Who was the real culprit?

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South Korea saw one of its most mind-boggling murder cases when a couple’s trip to a motel ended in the girlfriend’s death, and the two prime suspects were her boyfriend and an octopus.

The boyfriend was convicted by a court for the murder, but in 2013, South Korea’s Supreme Court acquitted him of the crime. Then, the question begs, did the country’s apex court believe that an octopus committed manslaughter?

Supreme Court of South Korea | Financial Times

The acquittal came after three years of the actual incident. In April 2010, a man named Mr. Kim checked into a hotel in Incheon, near Seoul, with his girlfriend. He later called the reception, saying that his girlfriend, Ms. Yoon, had collapsed and stopped breathing.

It turns out that the two had bought two live octopuses from a local restaurant and brought them to the motel to enjoy it together. But while sharing the meal, Yoon asphyxiated on one of them. Yoon was taken to a hospital, and 16 days later, she passed away.

Representational photo of the live octopus dish | Wikimedia Commons

Initially, police ruled the case as an accident and closed the file. But they were forced to reopen the case five months after a TV show shed new light on the subject. Notably, it highlighted Yoon’s father’s demands to have Kim investigated after he realized that his daughter had taken out a life insurance policy just before her death.

The policy payout was ₩200 million KRW (about $148,000 USD), and Kim was the sole beneficiary. He ended up collecting the money after Yoon’s death. The re-investigation put Kim on trial, and he was subsequently convicted of murder in October 2010. A lower court cited “compelling indirect evidence” of Kim’s involvement in the killing of Yoon and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

However, Kim appealed the ruling and had grounds to do so. During the investigation, the authorities did find an octopus tentacle in Yoon’s throat, and initially, both Yoon’s family and the police had accepted it as the cause of her death.

Live octopus is a special delicacy in South Korea, but the dangers of the dish are also well-known. While baby octopuses are consumed as a whole, bigger ones are cut up and eaten while the tentacles are still wiggling on the plate. Hence, the still-moving suction cups on them can cause the tentacle pieces to stick to a person’s throat and choke them.

In April 2013, a higher court ruled on Kim’s appeal and overturned his conviction. The prosecutors then took the case to the Supreme Court, which upheld the acquittal ultimately.