The Korea Herald


2004 gang rape resurfaces in crusade to reveal alleged criminals' identities

YouTuber plans to identify perpetrators behind 20-year-old case, most of whom escaped punishment for being too young at the time

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : June 5, 2024 - 19:30

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The Miryang gang rape case of 2004 is widely remembered as one of the worst sex crime cases in South Korean history, sparking nationwide furor for not only its brutality, but also for victim blaming by the local community and what has been seen as a lack of proper punishment for those responsible.

Forty-four high school boys in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, were found to have taken part in the brutal physical and sexual assault of multiple underage victims over the course of a year. The Ulsan District Prosecutors' Office requested prison terms for 10 of them, while 20 were sent to a juvenile detention center.

Thirteen of those accused did not receive any form of punishment, after reaching a settlement with the victim. Sex crime laws at the time required the victim to file charges for the perpetrator to be punished, a clause which changed in 2013.

One other boy of the 44 faced separate charges, but ultimately none of them received criminal punishment.

The perpetrators for the heinous crime may have escaped punishment from the court, but two decades later they are facing the court of public opinion. A few of the perpetrators have had their identities apparently disclosed to the public recently, with more revelations to possibly follow.

A YouTuber on Monday disclosed the identity of a man surnamed Shin, who is alleged to be one of those responsible in the Miryang case and to have changed his name and worked selling cars. Shin changed his Instagram page to private and attempted to go off the grid, after which his company fired him.

"We are taking this situation very seriously, and the person in question has been fired," the company said on its Instagram page on Tuesday.

On Sunday, another YouTube video revealed that one suspect surnamed Park is married, has a daughter and is running a successful restaurant with his family. Local media reports showed that the restaurant in question had temporarily ceased operation on Monday, after another allegation that it has violated construction law.

Crime and no punishment

The Miryang case was comparable to the plot of a horror film, literally to some extent, as it inspired multiple movies and TV dramas in the two decades since.

It started when a middle school girl surnamed Choi dialed a wrong number in June 2003, stumbling upon a conversation with a high school boy surnamed Kim. The two became acquainted over the next six months via online chats, after which Kim invited Choi to his hometown to hang out.

Choi agreed and visited Miryang in January 2004. What followed was a horrid series of sexual and physical abuse, to which even Choi's older sister got roped in.

(123rf) (123rf)

It was later revealed that Kim was a member of the "Miryang Coalition," a group responsible for raping five underage victims.

The boys constantly misled and deceived the victims to prevent them from reaching out for help, and it was only after Choi's aunt got the truth out of her in late 2004 that the crimes started to come to light.

Forty-four boys were held responsible for the gang rapes, but it is believed some 75 more aided their crime, such as keeping lookout or filming the inhumane actions. The alleged accomplices did not receive any form of punishment.

Secondary damage by local community, police

Reports show that not only were the victims unprotected by the local community, they were also subject to severe victim blaming in the aftermath. An organization under the name Counseling Service for Rape Victims in Miryang in 2005 conducted a survey of 645 residents of the city on the topic of who was to blame for the gang rape case, to which 64 percent answered "it was the girl's fault."

A 2005 episode of the MBC documentary series "News Who" conducted interviews in Miryang, which showed multiple people who thought the victim should be blamed for her own gang rape.

"A girl must've had a problem, for the boys to act like that. She's basically a gold digger, receiving money and settling," one resident said. Another told reporters that "a well brought-up girl wouldn't go out at night like that."

Such absurdity extended beyond the residents, as police officers were reported to also have uttered words seen as victim blaming.

One officer from Miryang accused Choi of "spoiling everything" in the city when she was not even a local, while another accused the girl's sister of lying. The victims' requests to talk to a female officer were ignored, and they were forced to sit in the same interrogation room with the boys and pinpoint who was responsible.

Choi, who had been subject to 11 months of torture, even had her identity revealed to the public, and her family was left unprotected from threats and verbal abuse from families of the perpetrators.

The Supreme Court in 2008 ordered the state to pay compensation for the damage and distress caused by police, which included the aforementioned problematic comments during interrogation and officials leaking the victims’ information to the press.

It was reported in 2007 that after moving to Seoul, Choi attempted multiple times to take her own life, and she was harassed by her alcoholic father and relatives who pressured her to settle with the suspects. Her efforts to transfer to another school were reportedly thwarted many times due to school officials’ reluctance to accept the victim of a sex crime.

Choi never graduated from high school, and her life after the incident remains mostly unknown.

In a 2016 interview with local media, lawyer Gang Ji-won -- who represented Choi pro bono at the time -- said the trauma from the incident left her needing psychological treatment. Gang said the Choi family was forced to live in hiding afterward, falling out of contact even with the lawyer himself.


The alleged criminals behind the Miryang incident are now in their mid to late 30s. Some of them hold stable jobs and have families of their own. Some even have a daughter, like the aforementioned Park, who posted on his Instagram page that he would be "a trustful father" and "will get rid of everything that gets in the way" of his daughter.

One purported suspect was caught working as a loan shark in 2018 and sentenced to an eight-month prison term.

Most of the former underage rapists remain hidden in anonymity, but the recent revelations by local YouTubers show that their crimes are not forgotten or forgiven by the general public.

On Wednesday, the identity of another alleged criminal behind the Miryang case was revealed by a different YouTuber than previously mentioned. He was found to be an employee of a large corporation, which temporarily removed him duties while verifying the recent allegations.