A South Korean man who had been accused of stalking a former colleague allegedly murdered her at a subway station in central Seoul the day before he was due to be sentenced.
Jeon Joo-hwan, 31, had stalked and threatened his former female colleague on more than 300 separate occasions over a nearly two-year period, according to the court.
Jeon reportedly illegally filmed the 28-year-old woman after she rejected his advances and harassed her with constant phone calls and messages.
He and the victim began working together at the Seoul Metro in 2019. Jeon was subsequently arrested and fired from his job after the woman reported him to the police in October 2021.
The police deemed Jeon as “low risk,” and he was later released on bail. He was also not subjected to any restraining orders, even after he reportedly continued to harass the woman.
On Sept. 14 – the day before he was due to be sentenced on charges of stalking – Jeon allegedly followed the 28-year-old to the subway station in Seoul where she worked and stabbed her to death in a public bathroom.
“It seems that he had complicated feelings about the victim, […] but made a final decision on the day of the crime,” a police official reportedly said. “On Sept. 14, the day before his trial judgment, he wandered around the victim’s old home for about two hours, but as he failed to find her, he seems to have gone to the subway station.”
The police believe that the murder was premeditated as he carried a knife, hair cap and gloves and waited for her at the restroom for over an hour. He allegedly checked his victim’s duty hours in advance and installed an application that could change his phone’s GPS location.
Jeon was arrested at Sindang Stati on on Line No. 2 on charges of murder after the incident.
He has been sentenced to nine years in prison for stalking the victim. In addition, he was ordered to take 80 hours of stalking treatment classes and 40 hours of sexual assault prevention classes.
“We deliver a heavier sentence [on the stalking charges] considering the victim was murdered,” the Seoul Western District Court reportedly said in its verdict.
Jeon will be tried and sentenced separately for the murder. He told reporters that he was angered over the legal problems the woman had caused him.
“I’m sorry,” Jeon was quoted as saying to reporters. “I have done something really insane.”
The murder has sparked nationwide outrage and criticism toward law enforcement, who many believe failed to protect the woman despite her having reported the man twice in six months. Many also questioned the effectiveness of the anti-stalking laws in the country that were introduced in 2021.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at the Seoul subway station where the victim was killed to pay their respects to her.
Min Go-eun, the victim’s lawyer, also expressed her frustration at what she called the “failure by law enforcement and the court to act more proactively to prevent the murder.”
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has since promised to improve his government’s efforts in protecting stalking victims and has ordered authorities to work harder in preventing such crimes.