U.S. to Extradite Prime Suspect in 1997 Murder to Korea

A Los Angeles district court has decided to extradite to Korea the main suspect in the murder of a Korean university student in Itaewon, Seoul in 1997. Last year, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office indicted Arthur Patterson (33) for the murder of Cho Jung-pil, then a 23-year-old student at Hongik University, who was stabbed nine times in the toilet of a hamburger restaurant in Itaewon.

"On Monday, a U.S. court accepted our request to extradite Patterson," a Justice Ministry official said on Tuesday.

The film "Where the Truth Lies" based on the murder was released in 2009, raising public awareness of the grisly murder.

Edward Lee, a Korean American, 18 at the time, who was at the scene with Patterson, was accused and tried for the murder. But the Supreme Court acquitted him in September 1999 due to insufficient evidence.

This raised suspicions that Patterson, who was 17 at the time and only indicted for possession of a lethal weapon, may have been the real murderer. But Patterson was released under a special amnesty in August 1998 and left for the U.S. at the end of August 1999, just before Lee was cleared.

Cho's blood was found on Patterson's clothes in a subsequent DNA test and Lee testified that he saw Patterson stab Cho.

Prosecutors reopened the case in 2009 due to growing public interest in the murder after the release of the movie. The U.S. decision to extradite Patterson does not guarantee he will stand trial in a Korean court in the near future.

"Patterson has voiced his willingness to exercise his right to protect himself from arbitrary state action through habeas corpus, so it may take more than a year until he can be extradited to Korea," the official added.

Patterson's father was a U.S. Forces Korea civilian employee at the time of the murder.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 24, 2012 12:40 KST