Korean Serial Killer Who Inspired Bong Joon-ho's 'Memories of Murder' Identified After 30 Years

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A scene from Bong Joon-ho's cult classic 'Memories of Murder'

After more than three decades of dead ends, police believe they have found the man behind the sensational string of murders, which have long been regarded as South Korea's first serial killer case.

After more than 30 years of a case gone cold, South Korean police believe they have identified the real-life killer who inspired Bong Joon-ho's 2003 classic thriller Memories of Murder.

This week, officials from the Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency announced that DNA sent to the National Forensic Service was a match for material found on the underwear of one of the ten victims murdered by the so-called "Korean Zodiac killer" in the late 1980s. The DNA belongs to a man in his 50s, who is currently serving a prison sentence for the rape and murder of his sister-in-law back in 1994.

The previously unsolved crimes rocked South Korea as the country's first high-profile serial killer case. Spanning from 1986 and 1991, 10 female victims ranging from their teens to aged 70 were found raped and brutally murdered in the city of Hwaseong, located in Gyeonggi Province, south of Seoul. In many of the killings, a piece of the victims' clothing, such as stockings or a blouse, was used for strangulation. 

“In July this year, we sent part of the evidence to the National Forensic Service, the result of which show that the DNA of the suspect matches at least three of the ten cases,” officials said.

Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho, winner of this year's Cannes Palme D'or for Parasite, adapted the incident into his second feature film, which dominated the South Korean box office at the time of its release, and gradually came to be regarded as an international cult classic. Both Bong and his longtime leading-man collaborator Song Kang-ho regularly cite the film as some of their proudest work together.

Although the evidence appears overwhelming, Korean police say they will not be able to prosecute the suspect for the Hwaseong serial murders because the statute of limitations expired back in April 2006. 

Police nevertheless vowed to continue investigating the crimes in service to history and the victims' families. On Thursday, authorities said they had identified another piece of evidence to analyze to further their investigation.