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[Newsmaker] New lead in death of student who drowned in Han River

Seven witnesses saw man walk into river the day Sohn Jung-min disappeared

Police officers search for the cellphone of the late Sohn Jung-min's friend. (Yonhap)
Police officers search for the cellphone of the late Sohn Jung-min's friend. (Yonhap)

New information continues to emerge regarding the night Sohn Jung-min disappeared near the Han River, further fanning public interest in the case. The medical student was found dead in the river the next day.

According to police investigations so far, Sohn was with a friend at Han River Park until around 3:38 a.m. on April 25. Later, at around 4:27 a.m., the friend woke up alone and went home without knowing where Sohn had gone.

Later, the police checked each of the 154 vehicles entering and exiting Han River Park and found seven witnesses, all fishermen, who said in a statement that they had seen a man walk into the water at 4:40 a.m. making an “ah, uh” sound. They said the man had begun swimming when the water was chest-high.

The fishermen were about 80 meters away from the man and did not see anyone else. They did not report it to the police because they did not think it was an emergency, according to the police.

The police are now focusing on identifying who went into the river that day by securing additional witnesses and analyzing CCTV footage.

Meanwhile, last week the National Forensic Service released the results of an autopsy that concluded Sohn drowned.

The medical student’s mysterious death has attracted a great deal of public attention in recent weeks. More than 200,000 people signed a petition on the Blue House website asking the presidential office to clarify the cause of death.

The case has also given rise to various conspiracy theories and speculation that Sohn’s friend may have killed him and tried to cover it up. Some netizens have accused the friend outright, calling him and his family murderers. A hospital run by Sohn’s friend’s father closed because of malicious comments posted after his son’s name and photo were publicized on the internet.

The police asked the public to trust them and wait for the results of their investigation instead of repeating unfounded suspicions. “Unconfirmed facts have been spreading as if they were true since the early days of the investigation and they have caused unnecessary confusion in the investigation and dispersed investigative power,” the police said.

The police have completed a forensic analysis of a car that Sohn’s friend’s family rode to the Banpo Han River Park site, as well as the friend’s laptop and his parents’ smartphones.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)

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