When a body was discovered on a mountain near the Yeongcheon village, two people would later confess to his murder and were sentenced to 10 and 15 years in prison. But months later, the boy they had confessed to murdering appeared unharmed at his mother’s home, creating a mystery that has yet to be solved almost a century later.
On April 29, 1930, a woman from the Yeongcheon village unexpectedly discovered a mangled corpse on a nearby mountain. At the time, crimes were rare, so the murder investigation had the attention of the entire village. Police who investigated the murder found that while the boy’s body was unrecognizable as he had been beaten, the cause of death was strangulation using a small towel near his body. They also discovered a Korean a-frame near the dead body, indicating that he had been moved at some point.
Because of the village’s small population, police quickly realized only one person was missing from the village, Park Chang Soo, who fit the general age and description. Park Chang Soo’s mother identified his body, although she did point out to police that the clothes were unfamiliar.
Little was known about Park Chang Soo other than he’d moved away from his mother, wandering around the village with beggars, using his strength to run errands in exchange for money and food. Villagers also often described him as dim-witted.
The last time Park Chang Soo had been seen before the discovery of the body, he had been seen being beaten by Ko Ok Dan, an innkeeper, and Cho Ki Jun, a laborer. The police quickly arrested them both and interrogated them for two straight days. Cho Ki Jun was the first to break down and confess to the murder, with Ko Ok Dan admitting shortly after.
According to what the two told the police, they killed Park Chang Soo out of anger. Ko Ok Dan was the second wife of a man who lived in a nearby village; because the first wife did not want Ko Ok Dan around, she was given an allowance and allowed to run her inn. Allegedly a villager asked Ko Ok Dan to run away with him, and rather than refusing, Ko Ok Dan simply asked for time to think.
According to their confession, Park Chang Soo found out and told Ko Ok Dan’s husband about her response, and her husband reprimanded her. Thus out of anger, Ko Ok Dan and Cho Ki Jun plotted Park Chang Soo’s murder, taking him to the mountain and strangling him.
After their trial, the two were sentenced to prison. Cho Ki Jun was given a ten-year sentence, while Ko Ok Dan was sentenced to 15 years. Allegedly Cho Ki Jun was given a lesser sentence because he appeared to show remorse.
After the trial, Park Chang Soo’s mother held a small burial for her son, and the village thought they had put the matter to rest.
However, on October 18, almost six months later, Park Chang Soo’s mother thought the ghost of her son had appeared when her son returned to their home. As the villagers gathered in shock, Park Chang Soo explained that while Ko Ok Dan and Cho Ki Jun had indeed brought him to the mountain and beaten him until he fell unconscious, he woke up the following day, still on the mountain.
Feeling fortunate not to have been murdered despite the beating, Park Chang Soo decided it was safer for him to go elsewhere, not wanting to invoke further wrath from Ko Ok Dan and Cho Ki Jun. Over the next six months, he traveled to Seoul, where he worked various jobs. Eventually, he became a servant for a wealthy family, but dissatisfied with his pay and the family’s treatment, he decided to return home, unaware that he had been declared a murder victim.
Upon Park Chang Soo’s return, everyone involved in the investigation and trial tried to blame each other for having messed up different parts. Prosecutors accused the police of having forced a false confession, while the police blamed Park Chang Soo’s mother for misidentifying the body.
Ko Ok Dan and Cho Ki Jun were acquitted almost a year after having “murdered” an alive boy, as both argued that they confessed because of the police’s torture and mind games. It is also suspected that the police pressured Park Chang Soo’s mother into identifying the body, despite her having pointed out the inconsistency of the clothes.
Nearly a century later, it is still unknown whose body was discovered on the mountain. Given its mangled appearance, it’s possible that the boy was also a victim of Ko Ok Dan and Cho Ki Jun, but it’s equally likely that his death was completely unrelated.
Meanwhile, Park Chang Soo spent the rest of his life helping his mother and working as a farmhand, ignoring the notoriety that came with “returning from the dead.”