The two-year ordeal of Han Ji-soo, the 27-year-old Korean woman who was accused of killing a Dutch backpacker in Roatan, an island in Honduras, is nearing an end as a three-judge panel of a district court came to a unanimous not-guilty verdict last weekend. Had there been a closer attention of our foreign missions to the apparently misdirected criminal procedures overseas, the venturesome young lady who went to the Central American country for scuba training would not have had to suffer so much as a murder suspect.
She was arrested at Cairo airport on Aug. 27, 2009 when she was about to fly home after teaching scuba diving in Dahab, Egypt, without knowing that she was being pursued by Interpol. Honduran authorities had charged Han in the killing of Mariska Mast, 24, a Dutch schoolteacher who was travelling with friends. On the night of Aug. 22, 2008, Mast was found unconscious in the apartment of an Australian scuba trainer where Han had subrented a room. She died in a hospital. An autopsy report said her death was caused by asphyxia from strangulation, but a second report presented by Han’s defense revealed it was caused by intoxication after ingestion of alcohol and drugs.
Interpol must have notified the Korean authorities as they were trying to locate Han, but the Korean police did not inform Han’s family of the Honduran and Dutch actions against her. The Korean mission in Egypt failed to move promptly to prevent the Korean national from being summarily processed for deportation to Honduras. The Foreign Ministry here started action only after Han’s father put Han’s letter on the Internet following her indictment and detention at a Honduran jail in December last year.
The Honduran prosecution appealed the court ruling but Han’s family seems optimistic about the final result. Tens of thousands of young Koreans are travelling abroad in pursuit of adventure and learning, and they, like Han, could face unexpected perils under unfamiliar circumstances. They have no one else to turn to for help but the Korean overseas missions.