Police Reopens Investigation of Legendary Singer's Widow

  • By Yang Eun-kyoung

    September 26, 2017 12:53

    Police said Monday that they are reopening an investigation of the widow of legendary folk rock singer Kim Kwang-seok, who died in mysterious circumstances in 1996.

    Lee Cheol-seong, the head of the National Police Agency, said investigators will summon Seo Hae-soon for questioning. The decision comes after interest in the drama was rekindled by a documentary about the singer's death last month.

    Kim Kwang-seok

    The singer's older brother has asked police to investigate Seo for neglecting the care of her disabled daughter, who died suddenly of a respiratory illness in 2007. He has also accused his sister-in-law of fraud by intentionally hiding her daughter's death while they were locked in a legal battle over the copyright to the singer's songs.

    Seo said she intends to cooperate with police. She has claimed to be the victim of a witch hunt and threatened to turn to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea to prove her innocence. Police want to investigate accusations of child neglect and fraud.

    At the time, investigators concluded from hospital records that the cause was acute pneumonia and an autopsy found no signs of foul play, only traces of cold medication. Seo told police that her daughter had been treated for a cold for five days until she collapsed at home, and police felt the evidence corroborated her. But the singer's brother and other family members claim that Seo deliberately denied her daughter the necessary care.

    The body was cremated, so the fresh investigation must rely on police records, testimony from medical personnel who treated her in 2007 and Seo herself.

    Attorney Shin Jin-hee, said, "Parental neglect is punishable only when there is evidence of abuse or intentional neglect, so police will have to focus on those factors."

    In 2008, the Supreme Court awarded the singer's copyright to Seo's daughter, who was then already dead. Seo claims she did not intentionally hide her daughter's death but did not realize that she should have told the court of it. Yet for many years she claimed her daughter was alive in the U.S., and Kim's family allege that she did so to cash in on royalties unmolested.

    "Kim's older brother and other family members thought the daughter was alive and ceded the copyright only because of that, so a fraud charge could be established," lawyer Seo Jung-wook said.

    Singer Kim Kwang-seok’s widow Seo Hae-soon talks during a TV interview on Monday. /Courtesy of JTBC

    An even bigger question mark hangs over Kim's own death. Police concluded in 1996 that it was suicide, but he was only 32, at the height of his success, and left no suicide note or will.

    Friends have testified that he was unhappy in his marriage and had asked for a divorce the day before he was found dead in the couple's home with an electrical cord round his neck.

    Seo's ex-convict brother was also on the premises. Seo claimed her husband had been suffering from depression, but Kim's brother claims he never took any anti-depressants. He also said his brother was an avid note taker, so it was strange that there was no suicide note.

    An unnamed investigator at the time has been quoted as saying police dropped the case only because they failed to find sufficient evidence either way.

    There is nothing police can do now about suspicions that Seo murdered Kim since the 15-year statute of limitations has long expired, an officer said.

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