What really happened between 3:30am – 4:30am on April 25th remains a crucial mystery
The Known Facts
Sohn Jung-min (SJM), a 21-year-old medical student, went missing around 3:30am – 4:30am on April 25th at the Banpo River Park.
After a five-day search, Sohn’s body was discovered in the Han River near the site of his disappearance on April 30th. It’s believed that the currents washed his body out and back. But how did he die? And how did he get into the water?
11:00 p.m. CCTV cameras showed SJM went to the riverside park with his friend (referred to in the Korean media as “Mr. A”) at about 11 p.m. on April 24. They were also filmed by security cameras in a convenience store, which was confirmed by credit card receipts that showed they bought snacks, alcohol and a mat. They went to the convenience store again around 1:00 a.m. to get more food and alcohol.
1:30 a.m. The two drank and hung out at the riverside park for hours. SJM sent KakaoTalk messages to his mother around 1:30 a.m. Instagram shows he posted a video of him and his friend dancing at 1:50 a.m.
2:00 am – 3:00 a.m Mister A says after sleeping, SJM woke up and started running around. SJM fell over himself and started rolling around on a hill and made growling noises. Mister A dragged SJM from the hill. This is when Mister A says his pants and shoes got dirty.
3:30 a.m. Mister A calls his own mother and also talks to his father. He says, “SJM is drunk and asleep.” Mister A’s father tells him to wake SJM up and to hurry up and come on home. This is the last time Mister A claims he used his iPhone. Instead of going home, Mister A claims he also fell asleep after the phone call.
4:30 a.m. CCTV shows Mister A leaving the park alone. Mister A claims that when he woke up, he was alone. He assumed SJM went home so he decided to go home too.
5:20 a.m. Mister A and his parents go back to the park to search for SJM.
5:30 a.m. Mister A’s mom calls SJM’s parents.
5:40 a.m. SJM’s dad comes out to the park to search for his son.
What Happened to the Body?
An autopsy found two wounds behind SJM’s left ear. SJM’s father said that according to the National Forensic Service, the wounds weren’t the direct cause of death. Police believe his bodily injuries may have been caused by hitting objects while drifting in the water. The official autopsy report will come out in about a week.
What’s Strange about This Case?
Nobody knows how SJM got into the river. Nobody knows what really happened between 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. If we believe Mr. A, then we’re only missing one hour between 3:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.
Mister A Goes Back to the Park with SJM’s Phone
Around 5:00 a.m. Mister A returns to the riverside park with his parents to search for SJM. SJM’s father starts to call his son around 5:30 a.m. Mister A has SJM’s phone and doesn’t pick up about 3 times.
Then Mister A answers and tells SJM’s dad that he took SJM’s phone by accident and that they were looking for him at the park. In the hopes that SJM has Mister A’s phone, they keep calling Mister A’s phone hoping that SJM will pick up and tell them where he is. There’s no answer.
SJM’s father shows up at the park around 5:40 a.m. and retrieves SJM’s phone from Mister A. SJM has a Samsung Galaxy. Mister A has an iPhone.
Around 7 a.m., Mister A’s iPhone goes straight to voicemail. The last cell tower ping tracks its location near the water taxi station.
Mister A’s Missing Shoes
As the investigation continues, requests are made for Mister A and his family’s phones, apartment CCTV footage, and car black box videos. Mister A’s family refuses. SJM’s father asks to look at Mister A’s shoes for clues as to where they could’ve wandered off to – grass, mud, water – but Mister A’s parents said they threw away the shoes because they were too dirty. This raises a lot of suspicions. Most people don’t just throw away shoes. When Mister A returned to the park at 5:00 a.m. with his parents, he changed his clothes and came in slippers.
The Red iPhone or the Space Grey iPhone
Believing that Mister A’s iPhone could reveal more clues to what happened during those missing hours, a mad search went on and still continues to locate the missing iPhone. A volunteer who came to the park with a metal detector found a smashed red iPhone in the water near the site of SJM’s death. It was missing the SIM card. Police later declared it did not belong to Mister A because Mister A’s iPhone was space grey not red.
However, netizens are claiming that according to CCTV footage of the two at the convenience store, Mister A was indeed holding a red object in his hand – either a red phone or red wallet. In any case, the red iPhone found in the river looked deliberately smashed.
Mysterious Last Video
In one of the last video’s filmed on SJM’s phone, Mister A is seen bowing to SJM and SJM saying to Mister A, “골든 건은 네가 잘못했어, 솔직히”. Loosely translated it means “‘골든’ is your fault, honestly.” The word “골든” pronounced ‘golden’ is a mystery even to Koreans. It’s believed to be a word created by Korean youth. Netizens weighed in with three possibilities: 1) it could be the stage name of a singer who also goes by G-Soul 2) it is a medical student reference for a person who bombed a test or 3) it’s the gold level in the League of Legends game.
The police and SJM’s dad don’t think too much of it because it was said in a video with a friendly atmosphere of singing and dancing before and after the reference. But it’s still weird.
Mister A went into the Seocho Police Station for 10 hours of questioning.
His mother gave the police her cell phone for investigation – particularly in regards to Mister A’s claim of his 3:30 a.m. phone call to his mother’s phone.
Eight people who were also at the riverside park and within 10 meters of Mister A and SJM have submitted testimonies to the police.
The Father’s Suspicions
SJM’s father has made it clear that he believes his son’s death was caused by someone else. He does not believe his son just walked into the river to his death.
He believes the actions of Mister A and his family do not match the behaviors of those free of suspicion. There are some of his doubts:
Why didn’t they call the police or him when they thought SJM was missing?
Why did they throw away his shoes?
If they bought a mat, where did the mat go?
Why didn’t Mister A answer the phone when he called?
Why did they take a lawyer when Mister A was questioned by authorities?
Why didn’t Mister A or his family come to the funeral?
Why did Mister A get a new phone just hours after searching for SJM?
But Why Does the Father Look So Happy?
SJM’s father is a bit uncomfortable to watch. Though I am generally against saying one should act a certain “normal” way after a tragedy, he seems too disconnected from his emotions and quite gleeful with the attention. He may just be a classic narcissist and there may not be anything sinister here. But he also takes every opportunity to imply guilt on Mister A and his family by saying they’re the ones not acting “normal” after a tragedy. He criticized how they didn’t call the police, how they threw away shoes and how they didn’t attend the funeral, etc.
In the video above, there’s a verbal slip at around the 3 minute mark. He says, “I just want the outcome, whether it’s a goo…. (he almost says good). Oh, every outcome is bad. I just want to get to the outcome.” It’s odd that his mind goes to ‘good outcome’ with a smile.
In this next video, at his own son’s funeral, he’s conducting a press conference like a pro. He’s questioning the reporters too. He’s leading them on what the proper behavior of his son’s friend and family should’ve been. Instead, he implies that their behavior is suspicious. Not that everyone expresses grief in the same manner, but you can’t deny he’s holding a press conference like he’s running for office.
In other video captures, he’s angling for the right camera angles at his own son’s vigil by the river. And there’s no mic or camera he doesn’t like. He’s out interviewing everywhere. I understand if he’s pulling his strength to get the truth and public focus on his son while he can. Mourning can come later. But most people would be holed up at home in grief.