Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Raincoat Killer: Chasing A Predator In Korea’ on Netflix,
Netflix keeps its true crime train steaming along with The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea, a three-episode series about a brutal murder spree that mystified police and horrified the public in early-2000’s Seoul. While the serial killer was eventually apprehended, the investigation illuminated the flaws and limitations inherent within the Korean law enforcement establishment.
Opening Shot: Over aerial tracking shots of Seoul, South Korea at night, a man is speaking in voiceover. “For a long time, I couldn’t get the scene out of my head. The scenes of the victims dismembered, how they would have suffered. It was incredibly difficult. It’s still difficult.”
The Gist: The police personnel interviewed in The Raincoat Killer are older now, and in some cases even retired, but the brutality of the murders that occured in Seoul, South Korea in 2003 and 2004 have stayed with them, as have the frustrated efforts of law enforcement to find the person responsible. The trouble began in October 2003, with the triple murder of a grandmother, her son, and daughter-in-law inside a home located in Seoul’s wealthy Gugi-dong neighborhood. But almost before police could establish a motive, those murders were being connected to a similar case in Sinsa-dong. All of the victims were wealthy, of advanced age, and had been attacked with a blunt force object. And then there were even more murders.
The bulk of “A New Breed of Killer,” Raincoat‘s first episode, is taken up by interviews with the authorities who were there, including forensic officer Kim Hee Sook, retired police chief Kang in Cheol, and criminal profiler Kwon Il Yong, who was the first law enforcement professional to employ profiling’s advanced behavior analysis techniques to crime scenes in Korea. And as the killings continue with no tangible progress or leads by the police, the shortcomings ingrained in the Korean system of law enforcement become an impediment to a murder investigation of this kind, with its unprecedented magnitude and profound complexities. The Raincoat Killer also ties in the tremulous state of Korean society at the turn of the century, when the economy tanked before rebounding with loans that largely benefitted the rich but removed the safety net for the general public. And it was out of this “deep abyss” that a serial killer emerged.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Killers and cops and true crime docs thrive on Netflix. The streamer features everything from nine seasons of Forensic Files, to the episodic documentary Making a Murderer, to standalone limited series like Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. Meanwhile, in film, Na Hong-jin’s 2008 action-thriller The Chaser was based on the murderous exploits of Yoo Young-chul.
Our Take: The eeriest moments of The Raincoat Killer, when its narrative is most aligned with the sense of spine-chilling unease that the law enforcement personnel interviewed describe as having permeated the crime scenes, are when the words and thoughts of the killer himself, Yoo Young-chul, are heard. “I was silent on the outside, but I was thundering on the inside. I did it to kill society. Even in history, whenever society was in turmoil, there had been uprisings where the people took matters into their own hands…I wished that lightning would burn everything down, and that a storm would swallow it all up. Because of such madness, I felt the strong urge to destroy and hurt people like a madman. And I was intoxicated by the act without even realizing it.”
Yoo, who the authorities say told them how proud he was of the media frenzy surrounding his murder spree, is also described by police as embodying the “new breed” of killer from the title of Raincoat‘s first episode, somebody not motivated by convention — jealousy, robbery, passion — but something larger and more sinister and at the same time undefined. As one author interviewed puts it, “The crimes that occur in advanced capitalist countries such as the US, Japan or Europe had finally started happening in Korea, too. Many criminal psychologists call it ‘indiscriminate crime. This includes serial murders.’
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: The map graphic of the city of Seoul, which had burned red in each spot on the grid where a murder occured, gradually connects those spots before becoming saturated entirely in red, portending more awfulness to come as the police hang onto their single shred of evidence.
Sleeper Star: Park Ki Ryun, the retired police chief of Seoul’s Gangnam district, allows a grimace or two during his interviews as he relates the ineffectual nature of the police investigation at the time. And when he told the commissioner, his boss, that the murders were the work of a serial killer? “He flipped out…He told me not to ever mention it again.”
Most Pilot-y Line: “To understand criminals,” says Korea’s first criminal profiler, Kwon il Yong, “one has to take a walk inside their minds.”
Our Call: STREAM IT. Especially all of you true crime fans. The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea fits right into Netflix’s string of docs examining awful deeds with a fine-toothed comb, with the added wrinkle of putting its microscope on Korean society.
Johnny Loftus is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges