Netflix Tracks Korea’s Most Notorious Serial Killer Yoo Young-chul—Who Targeted the Rich, Then Prostitutes

Kim Mi-Ok / Getty Images
For all its melodramatic flourishes, The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea takes the murder - and the trauma it inflicts on others - very seriously. A three-part Netflix documentary about South Korea's most notorious serial killer rampage that repeatedly fixes on the grief, regret, guilt and fear of both the police officers who handled the case and the families of the many victims of the monster. Such a sensitivity lends his factual history, which included the inexplicable deaths of numerous people from different walks of life and which ultimately took place so cinematically that it would be borderline, incredibly true.
The Raincoat Killer (now available) tells the terrible story of Yoo Young-chul, who broke into four different houses from September to November 2003 and brutally murdered their wealthy owners in Seoul's affluent Gugi-Dong neighborhood. Since none of the victims were related and no valuables were taken, investigators were baffled. To make matters worse, little reliable evidence was found in the horrific scenes: matching footprints in three of the four locations and footage from a CCTV camera showing a young man from behind walking down the street in a victim's jacket. In all of these cases, the killer had struck his targets in the head with a sharp-edged weapon. However, without this tool in their possession, the police were unable to determine the exact object that was used in the attacks.
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Even connecting these murders was difficult, as the South Korean police authorities at the time, as detectives and chiefs in The Raincoat Killer explain, were largely confined to their own districts, communicated little with their colleagues and actually tried very hard to remain silent about unsolved cases; The protocol stipulated that crimes should not be published until they had been solved. This was the first of several fatal mistakes that helped Yoo keep working undetected. They are to be credited for having more than one speaker adopting these omissions throughout the series, admitting that bureaucratic and personal errors were so widespread during their investigations that, in the ensuing period, South Korean law enforcement operations were substantially reformed to remove inefficiency and Corruption.
Although the trail turned cold after these murders in late 2003, the police soon became engaged in yet another series of arbitrary crimes, this time in southwest Seoul, where dozens of young women were attacked while walking home alone late at night. These victims suffered similar head injuries to the first crimes, and suspicions quickly grew - both among the police and the media - that a serial killer was not only at large, but may now have changed his course of action to take action . Other homicides also took place in and around the red light district, albeit unnoticed by the police, as the disappearance of prostitutes rarely landed on their radar - making these vulnerable women the perfect prey for a predator like Yoo.
The Raincoat Killer quickly contextualizes this killing spree in a post-2000 Seoul plagued by economic hardship and growing homelessness and inequality - and protected by police unequipped for the new challenges. In this environment, the country's first criminal profiler, Kwon Il-yong, and detective Kim Hee-sook were immensely disadvantaged because they had to put together a puzzle that was missing important pieces. The series confidently provides a historical framework for its narrative while maintaining an exciting forward dynamic. In addition, he has an abundance of talking heads - including the head of the Seoul Mobile Investigation Unit, Kang Dae-won, the team leader Park Myung-sun, and the detective Yang Pil-joo, all of whom played a major role in the hunt for Yoo a certain degree of authenticity and immediacy, the latter culminating in memories of Yoo's attempt to escape after his arrest, which was the by-product of the almost breathtaking incompetence of Park and Co. and was only corrected by the quick thinking of the experienced detective Kim Sang-joon and some wondrous luck.
Interviews, family pictures, graphic maps and archive footage from crime scenes and news reports are all used by The Raincoat Killer. Even staged re-enactments that are produced so exaggeratedly - all of them meaningful slow-motion, blurry faces and atmospheric images - that they border on parody. The floral splendor of these sequences is in direct contradiction to the sober testimonies of those in front of the camera, whose comments about the responsibility they felt for the dead and the toll their work took on their own psyche are untouched and heartbreaking. The result is a documentary series that often feels disagreed about how to deal with the material chosen, although her stronger instincts for the most part predominate, thanks largely to her unwavering focus on the memories of those who went through this horrific ordeal.
Given the extensive documentation of the persecution of Yoo, it is surprising that The Raincoat Killer never offers much information or insight into the killer himself. More than one person discusses Yu's resentment and hatred of women and the rich, as well as the dual personality that enabled him to remain anonymous for so long. But aside from the accidental revelation that he had a son (and presumably a wife), Yu's childhood, relationships, professional career, and criminal record - which it turns out to be extensive - are never addressed in the trials. His bare face isn't even visible on the screen; all we get are TV excerpts in which he addresses the press wearing a mask.
Yoo eventually confessed to killing 26 people (and was convicted of killing 20). Mystery he comes across as exactly the kind of mythical boogeyman he wanted to be. Better to blame institutional ineptitude and a touching portrait of the lingering scars that still plague the men and women whose job it was to keep Yoo from doing his evil deeds - and those who, like Ahn Jae-sam, their own Living hells trying to cope with the pointless slaughter of their loved ones.
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Yoo Young-chul
South Korean serial killer

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