Bloody mayhem in Korea has been a huge moneymaker for Netflix lately, as the horror thriller “Squid Game” continues to dominate viewership. A new docuseries aims to ride that wave with its sensationalistic subject matter.
“The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in South Korea” tells the story of Yoo Young-chul, a serial killer who terrorized Seoul in the early aughts with a series of gruesome murders of elderly people and female sex workers.
Yoo, reportedly unrepentant, was convicted of 20 murders in 2004, and is currently in prison in South Korea awaiting execution. His case loosely inspired a 2008 movie, “The Chaser,” and now a three-part docuseries aims to revisit the real events, mostly through a series of interviews with the still-haunted police who worked on the case.
The details of the murders, as one forensic officer puts it, are “spine-chilling.” The killer, whose first victims were found in the fall of 2003, bludgeoned his targets with a sledgehammer. He initially killed older people who lived in wealthy neighborhoods, leading one investigator to make a connection to the rampant social upheaval that had occurred during Korea’s financial crisis.
“The rich got richer and the poor got poorer,” the officer says, leading to an increase in violent attacks and to perpetrators who felt no sense of guilt because they were so disconnected from society.
Yoo — who had been in prison for rape before his murder spree — eventually moved on to killing sex workers after a failed relationship with one, according to investigators.
He called women to his apartment and murdered them there, decapitating some and claiming, in several cases, to have eaten parts of their bodies.
“Yoo testified that in order to cleanse his spirit, he ate some of the internal organs from the bodies of four of his victims,” prosecutors said in 2004, adding, “It is difficult to believe Yoo’s statement because serial killers tend to exaggerate.” When questioned about his motives, Yoo reportedly said to the media that “Women shouldn’t be sluts, and the rich should know what they’ve done.”
The Netflix series sticks largely to interviews with the officials involved, plus some crime scene photos and reenactments of crime scenes. The first episode focuses almost solely on police talking about their handling of the case at the outset, as connections were being drawn between crime scenes. A debate ensues between departments about whether to use the term “serial killer,” which might cause mass panic. Occasionally, Yoo is heard in voiceover, though it’s not clear whether it’s the killer in a recorded interview or an actor.
By the third episode, cops make it into the killer’s apartment, where we see a collection of Yoo’s creepy drawings. They also discover a substantial amount of blood spatter in his bathroom, using a blacklight, and eventually piece together that many of his female victims were killed and dismembered there. When he was arrested, Yoo had on the same yellow raincoat he frequently wore during his crimes.
The Raincoat Killer case also helped develop criminal profiling as a practice new to South Korea, which led to breakthroughs in subsequent cases. Kwon Il Yong, Korea’s first profiler, says in the doc that he developed techniques on this case that were used to catch subsequent murderers — and finally got justice for the elderly who were killed in their homes, and the young women murdered in Yoo’s apartment.
As Lee Soo Jung, a professor of criminal psychology, says in the series: “The deceased victims can’t talk. They can’t tell us how they were killed.”