The Korea Herald

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Father, stepmother tried to cover up brutal abuse of 7-year-old

By Korea Herald

Published : March 13, 2016 - 15:34

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The body of a 7-year-old boy, which police were searching for since last week, was discovered buried at a mountain in Cheongbuk, Gyeonggi Province, on Saturday.

He was allegedly killed from months of abuse and confinement by his father and stepmother.

The father and stepmother of Shin Won-young reportedly confessed to police on Friday that they had hid the body of the boy for 10 days before burying him in the mountain on Feb. 12.

The 38-year-old stepmother identified as Kim reportedly confessed to locking Won-young up in a bathroom since November last year, feeding him only once a day and repeatedly abusing him such as by pouring icy water or chlorine bleach on him. 

The preliminary autopsy by the National Forensic Service on Saturday showed the boy had suffered from starvation, multiple hypodermal bleeding and hypothermia, among other things. 

Won-young’s death is the fourth high-profile case of brutal child abuse discovered this year. Search for the boy was initiated as part of the intensified nationwide survey on children who have not been admitted to school in time or have been absent for a long time.

Won-young’s biological father, identified only by his surname, admitted to finding Won-young dead on Feb. 2, a day after he allegedly suffered another round of beating by his stepmother. 

The couple testified that they had wrapped the body of the boy and kept him hidden at their veranda at home before moving and burying the body some 5-meters away from the gravesite of the man’s father.


Police carry the body of 7-year-old Shin Won-young from a mountain in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on Saturday. Yonhap Police carry the body of 7-year-old Shin Won-young from a mountain in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on Saturday. Yonhap


The couple had given mixed testimonies of their whereabouts. Credit card records had placed them near the mountain, before they confessed. 

The police excavated the body of the boy early Saturday morning. The police are planning to charge both with murder. They said Shin had admitted to having known about the abuse by his new wife but that he had been afraid of facing punishment.

The couple had also allegedly attempted to cover up their crime by sending each other text messages after Won-young’s death.

One of the messages sent by Shin to Kim read, “Won-young is doing ok right?,” to which Kim responded, “He ate well and even brushed his teeth.” The messages were exchanged on Feb. 3, the day after Won-young’s body was found in the bathroom.

Since being arrested earlier last week, they have also given mixed testimonies including how they left Won-young on a street, resulting in hundreds of members of the police force and various equipment, such as drones, being mobilized in search of the missing child.


A mourner extends condolences during the funeral service of Shin Won-young in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on Sunday. Yonhap A mourner extends condolences during the funeral service of Shin Won-young in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on Sunday. Yonhap


The funeral of Won-young was carried out on Sunday and it was reportedly attended by his birthmother, who had divorced Shin some three years ago with limited visitation rights to her son. The mother had reportedly lost contact with Won-young and his sister, who has also been living with the father and the stepmother since August, 2014.

Controversy persists over the legal and systematic loopholes in protecting children from abuse, especially from their parents, as such acts by them are considered easier to hide.

Reports said that while there was evidence since 2013, such as pictures of Won-young’s beaten-up legs taken by a child protection agency, neither his father nor his stepmother had been questioned by the police. At the time, there were no regulations that required police to accompany counselors in suspected cases of child abuse.

The officials attempted to move Won-young to a child protection facility in 2014 but this was refused by his father. There were no legal grounds to force the separation.

Special laws were enacted in 2014, bestowing greater authority to the police and counselors at child protection organizations to investigate child abuses cases. Additional revisions to relevant laws have been made this year to better protect children but experts have pointed to a need for more fundamental changes, such as in the areas of social perception toward abuse by parents and chronic insufficiencies in budget and the workforce at child protection agencies. (khnews@heraldcorp.com)