Forensics Test of Dead College Student’s Phone Raises Suspicions


Data logs tracking the cell phone usage of dead medical student Son Jung Min on the night of his disappearance may have been a critical clue in solving his mysterious death. However, the results of the forensics test of his phone declared nothing was out of the ordinary. Yet, to some, the actions of the police now raise some serious red flags about the sincerity of their investigation.

On May 24, 2021, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency announced the results of its forensics test of Son Jung Min’s phone – particularly after phone logs from the cell phone company showed data usage all through the night – including the hours when SJM was reportedly missing. On May 18, 2021, SJM’s father released the data records of SJM’s phone to the public. The police had already taken custody of the phone for analysis earlier in the month.

What Screams Out from the Data Logs

As you can see from the photo above, there is data usage on the deceased Son Jung Min’s phone during two overlapping points of interest. The phone was active in data usage when 1) Son Jung Min went missing AND when 2) Mister A said he was sleeping between 3:38 a.m. and 4:27 a.m. If Mister A had been using SJM’s phone during these times, not only would his previous statements be proven false, he would become a prime suspect.

But a ‘forensics analysis’ was needed to determine whether the data usage was due to a person directly operating the phone or if automatic background data could explain the data logs.

However, did the police actually conduct a thorough forensic analysis?

Dubious Results of Forensic Analysis

On the morning of May 24, 2021, the police announced that Son Jung Min’s phone was last used for an internet search at 1:09 a.m. on April 25, 2021. After that time, no internet or apps were used. They led the public to believe that we now had a time stamp of 1:09 a.m.

However, netizens were already well aware that Son Jung Min had messaged his mom via the KakaoTalk app between 1:22 a.m. and 1:24 a.m. Upon hearing the uproar, the police released an additional statement on the afternoon of May 24, 2021 that stated in essence: “To allay the doubts the bereaving family have on the data forensics, we’ve reviewed the results. Records for calls, texts and messenger data are separate from internet and app usage data. This means the last KakaoTalk message from the phone was at 1:24 a.m. from SJM to his mother. And the last call was at 1:33 a.m. to Coupang Eats delivery man.”

On left, a receipt for food delivery. On right, a KakaoTalk message between SJM and his mother.

As far as I’m concerned, this blows the credibility of the police to shreds for the following reasons:

  1. They never mentioned the phone call at 1:33 a.m. to the late night food delivery man. That should be the end point for usage of the phone. It was only revealed after they were challenged with the facts.
  2. The KakaoTalk message was a big blunder. And to cover it up, they used intentionally crafty and wordy Korean that Koreans themselves say needed an etymologist to work out. Still, it doesn’t make sense. KakaoTalk is an app. If he used the app to message, then 1:24 a.m. should’ve been the end point even if they wanted to hide the phone call.
  3. They focused on the internet search history. This appears that their ‘forensic analysis’ simply consisted of going to the browser’s search history and seeing that nothing showed up after 1:09 a.m., which someone could’ve easily deleted. As we recall, SJM was feverishly deleting social media, pictures and other information off of SJM’s phone while SJM was knocked out sleeping.

Moreover, the police did not rigorously assess whether the data usage came from active or passive phone use. They simply quoted a boilerplate statement from the phone company that sometimes data logs reflect background app usage. Well, even a teenager could’ve told you that.

Lingering Questions

  1. Weren’t there social media posts of the two men dancing after 1:09 a.m. from SJM’s account? That showed he used his phone’s data after 1:09 a.m.
  2. Why weren’t there any data logs showing ‘updates’ after 5:35 a.m. when Mister A handed the phone back to SJM’s parents? (If you don’t already know, Mister A had SJM’s phone and said his own went missing.) The data usage on SJM’s phone went radio silent until 11:05 a.m. when SJM’s parents went through their son’s phone to gather more clues about their son’s whereabouts.
  3. Didn’t Mister A use SJM’s phone when he was filmed in the tunnel again around 5 a.m. and when he finally answered after SJM’s father called repeatedly around 5:30 a.m.?

Most troubling from this development in the Son Jung Min saga is that the police seem like an evasive witness with the highly selective and misleading answers. The police should not appear to be a guilty suspect being questioned by… the police.




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