They are known as the Frog Boys and theirs is the Case of the Month for March, 2017.
U Cheol-won (13), Jo Ho-yeon (12), Kim Yeong-gyu (11), Park Chan-in (10), and Kim Jong-sik (9) went to catch frogs near Mount Waryong, South Korea, on March 26, 1991. It was a national holiday so they didn’t have to go to schools. They never returned home. Their remains were found in 2002.
A massive manhunt followed after the boys didn’t come home. National newscasts kept the country up to date. Volunteers joined police to help find the boys. The area where they said they would go, Mount Waryong, was searched many times. And yet it is exactly there that they were found. The children found were in an area they knew well. They were only 3.5 kilometers away from their homes.
Remains found in 2002
On Mount Waryong, two men stumbled on human remains. Wikipedia mentioned that people searched the area hundreds of times however, the link under footnote #6 no longer works. I do believe the authorities searched that area many times. That is where the boys said they would be. Is it possible to still find remains then? Yes. Soil shifts. Earth tremors can open up and cover areas. And, their remains could have been planted there after all the searches were discontinued.
My main concern is that we cannot prove that the boys were murdered exactly where they were found. We cannot prove that their remains were not hidden somewhere else first. We cannot even prove that they were killed all at once in one violent sessions without a cooling down period or, that they were killed one by one. The latter version begs the question of the number of people involved to keep the boys under their control. The children’s clothes were tied in knots. Whether their bodily extremities were tied I could not find.
I also wonder why their bodies were reunited in death. They were found tied up (I’d like to know how exactly) and placed in a huddling position. Maybe to mislead police? The huddling position did make them think at first that the boys got lost and died together of hypothermia/exposure. But placing them together could also have been a twisted act of humanity. A sort of regret after cool down on the part of their killer(s).
The five boys were buried on March 25, 2004. Their families donated their skulls to medical science for research and maybe too in hopes to find out more about the trauma to their children’s skulls.
Experts found two bullet holes in one child’s skull. Three from the five skulls had blunt-force trauma. It is possible that they were hit unconscious with an object like a tool. What kind of object/tool, who wielded it, and why that is the mystery.
“The three skulls were caved in and showed a number of sharp cracks and holes, the investigators said.” That means the cause of death could be cranial injuries.
Police found a 5cm long loaded shell and two 1cm long empty shells near the scene. They sent them to a lab to find out if they are related to this case. Police did mention there was a shooting practice field not far from the crime scene.
Some questioned why the boys had taken off their clothes. I think it is very hard to have a definitive answer in 2017 whether the boys undressed themselves or whether their clothes loosened naturally in time due to deterioration and earth shifting.
Statutes of Limitation
According to then-South Korean Law, the statutes of limitations expire 15 years after the crime so in 2006. This meant that even if the prosecution found answers they could not bring anyone to trial. In 2015 however, South Korea removed that obstacle paving the way for further investigations in infamous cold cases.
During the investigation, police followed many leads and tips. Some were obviously false, some reported sightings, and some even confessed. Police began an investigation into a call made to a daily newspaper a day before the bodies were found. The paper reported that a man said “You will find remains of the five frog boys in Mt. Waryong.” This man gave the location before the remains were found. I’d like to know what became of this. I cannot find any further details.
I cannot find whether five complete skeletons were found. I cannot find if it has been conclusively established that all the remains found were indeed from the five boys. My biggest hope is that their clothes and the materials used to tie them together were properly preserved. That opens up the possibility to find touch DNA by using the M-Vac.
Did the boys stumble upon someone who killed them in a rage? If so, how did one person keep five boys under control? Did he first shoot one boy and when the other four checked on their friend wielded the mentioned tool/object to try to hit as many of the others as possible? If one child was shot why were not all five shot? Was one child somehow separated from the group, shot first, and hearing the shots the other four came looking for him? Were they ambushed by one or more people? Was it premeditated murder? An accident? Was this the work of a disturbed person?
Many questions remain open in the cold case of the Frog Boys. I am not sure we will ever find answers unless we get a confession. I do hope that all the preserved evidence will be tested with modern technology.
Rest In Peace U Cheol-won, Jo Ho-yeon, Kim Yeong-gyu, Park Chan-in, and Kim Jong-sik.
Note: the images used come from this website.
In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis. Often more information can be found online or in newspaper archives. The goal of these posts is to get the cases back in the spotlights, to get people talking again, and if anything to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are cold does not mean that we can forget about them.
If you have any thoughts about this case then I encourage you to post them on your own social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.) Every time that we mention U Cheol-won, Jo Ho-yeon, Kim Yeong-gyu, Park Chan-in, and Kim Jong-sik’ names online we enhance their digital footprint.
We must make sure that the Frog Boys keep their web presence if we ever wish to find answers in their case. You can help by linking to or sharing this post.
Thank you for remembering U Cheol-won, Jo Ho-yeon, Kim Yeong-gyu, Park Chan-in, and Kim Jong-sik a.k.a. the Frog Boys with us.