#JusticeForJangJaYeon: What’s Happened In The Year Since Jang Ja Yeon’s Case Was Reopened

On June 5th, 2018, the prosecution announced their decision to reopen actress Jang Ja Yeon’s case surrounding her 2009 suicide. The decision came after a petition to reopen the case from the National People’s Petition received 200,000 signatures and the prosecution recommended the reinvestigation on April 2nd, 2018. Park Jin Hyun, ordered by the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office to investigate Jang Ja Yeon’s death revealed in an interview with Hankook Ilbo that Jang Ja Yeon’s phone records from a year prior to her death had disappeared, which sparked an investigation into prosecutors and court officials in charge of her case in 2009.

On June 28th, it was revealed that a witness in the case, actress Yoon Ji Oh, but at the time only identified as Yoon, had come forward. During her interviews Yoon says that she witness Jang Ja Yeon being assaulted by Cho Jae Joon, a former Chosun Ilbo journalist turned politician, and on June 26th, 45 days before the statute of limitations on his case ran out, he was indicted without detention, and booked on charges of sexual abuse. 

Nine years have passed since the incident. I still remember clearly what happened on that day. As a rookie actress, it was the first time for me to see what ‘serving drinks’ meant. It was my first time seeing Cho, and my first time seeing Jang being sexually abused. 

It was the (agency) head’s birthday party. After dancing on the table, Jang was getting down. It was forceful. I remember, Jang tried to stand up multiple times, but was forced to sit down again and again. Meanwhile, he touched where he shouldn’t.

It was revealed that in the initial investigation, investigators cleared Cho Jae Joon due to a “lack of evidence,” and accepted Cho Jae Joon’s claim that a deposit found in Jang Ja Yeon’s account was “pocket change to help with a difficult situation.” Yoon also stated that during the initial investigation she testified 13 times but her testimony was not accepted or even recored by police or prosecutors,

I thought it was strange, they seemed to believe Cho, who was pointed to as an assailant. I was just over 20, unable to judge the situation well, but even for me, it was strange. After the investigation, I learned that Cho’s wife was a prosecutor.

This investigation has found that witness statements at the time were in fact consistent, contrary to what prosecutors at the time had stated. In news reports it was found that despite sufficient evidence and witness testimony found 5,048 court and police documents, the 20 key suspects in the case were never indicted.

On the July 31st episode of PD Note, Cho Hyun Oh, the former chief of Gyeonggi Police, revealed he received pressure from Chosun Ilbo, of which Bang Sang Hoon who is listed in Jang Ja Yeon’s letters is the CEO.

I personally felt insulted and also a great deal of shame. I remember Chosun Ilbo vigorously protesting. Mentioning political power, it threatened me. It requested not to mention Chosun Ilbo CEO Bang Sang-hoon’s name.

Another prosecutor mentioned that he had been visited two to three times by an editor of Chosun Ilbo. Lee Jong Kul, a lawmaker, said he he had also been contacted by the news paper, asking him to not mention the CEO’s name publicly or legal action would be taken.

In August 2018 a Blue House petition was created requesting protection for Jang Ja Yeon’s only witness, Yoon Ji Oh. A petition is required to garner 200,000 signatures within 30 days in order for a government official to reply, the petition gained nearly 300,000 signatures. On March 14th, 2019 at 2:30pm KST Yoon Ji Oh began to get police protection, and was moved into a safehouse provided by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

In December 2018, Park Moon Deok, the head of Hite Jinro, Koreana Hotel CEO Bang Yong Hoon, and former Justice Minister Kwon Jae Jin, a senior prosecutor at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office at the time, were revealed to have met Jang Ja Yeon at a dinner in 2008. Prosecutors hope to determine if Kwon Jae Jin’s attendance at the dinner was related to him using his authority to influence the investigation. Also in December, the investigation team requested an extension of Jang Ja Yeon’s case, which was set to end on December 31st, citing an incomplete investigation. Additionally,  Bang Jeon Oh, the former CEO of TV Chosun and son of Bang Sang Hoon, and his younger brother were called in for question on whether he had met and threatened Jang Ja Yeon with legal action to silence her. He only admits to being at a drinking party that she was also in attendance at and leaving after an hour, saying “It is not true that I met with Jang Ja-yeon several times and talked with her.”

Yoon Ji Oh discussed her book ‘The 13th Statement: March 7th, 2009 The After,’ released on March 5th 2019, where she shares her experience with the investigation process as the sole witness in Jang Ja Yeon’s case, on Kim Eo Joon’s News Factory. She confirmed that she had seen four pages of Jang Ja yeon’s suicide not and the names of the men listed, saying she saw the names of three journalists with the same surname from the same news outlet, and a lawmaker with a unique surname, which she also mentioned during her questioning.

This is a record of truth for me and her. It is a record of things that should never happen again and the regret of how we couldn’t go on with our dreams. I felt guilty that I didn’t see, didn’t realize the hand that she was giving me, and made the thirteenth statement. All these years I put my silence in order, and I put my thoughts in order. Now I only wish and hope that the truth will be revealed. I am deeply thankful to those who petitioned so that Jang Ja Yeon’s case could be reinvestigated. I couldn’t bear to watch victims hide and the culprits act so honorable

On her Instagram she explained why she did not disclose the names public

Translation:

You said people come first, so am I not a person? I’m sure many of you already know that I came out with a risk.

It’s easier to tell a secret than to keep it. For ten years, I’ve only spoken to legal police prosecutors, and I’ve been cautious about mentioning the name of the deceased. I’ve never avoided the 13, no 14 this time, investigations, and I will continue to not avoid the investigations that are about to come.

The figures mentioned in the list that many people and the media are focused on. The reason why I didn’t reveal them wasn’t because I was trying to protect them. It was to prepare for more testimonies to come as well as the long-term fight that may end anytime.

If I sue them for libel, they will quickly turn me, a witness, into a defamation suspect, and they have the power to do so. And I don’t want to spend a single cent for them in vain. They’ve been extorting and exploiting money so much, so why should I do that?  I’m sure the press is always the same. Who is it? Who is it mentioned on the list? Can you bear the weight of my life instead and make a sacrifice? I despise some media outlets and some reporters who are obsessed with the number of clicks with sensational and more stimulating reports rather than factually reporting the situation.

It is not the witness who should reveal the person on the list. It is only appropriate to reflect on and re-investigate the wrong investigation that was found through the investigation process and could not be revealed.

It’s true that I also needed to use the media, which doesn’t care about my safety or my responsibility. Why? It’s the story the perpetrators have to look at, and now they have to hide and evade because of the truth they’ve hid till now. It wasn’t an easy decision for me either. I’ve told many people who ask me about my nationality many times on the air. I am a citizen of the Republic of Korea.

My family obtained foreign citizenship. But my older brother volunteered to join Korean Augmentation To the United States Army, although he doesn’t have to go to the military. Why? Because his root is Korean. My father once said that a man in Korea should go to the army and my brother agreed.

It probably wasn’t an easy decision to make at such a young age, and it strengthened my belief to live my life by looking up to my mom and dad who helped form such mindsets as they helped us grow up. As a woman, I had a lot of things that wouldn’t matter even if I got my citizenship. I would get a lot of benefits, but doing this was my last pride in wanting to live as a Korean. In my loving homeland, I find this unfortunate reality of being ostracized really ridiculous.

On March 18th the Ministry of Justice’s Committee of Past Affairs accepted the extension requested by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office’s Investigative Team of Past Affairs, and they will remain active until May allowing them to complete investigations into a number of cases including Jang Ja Yeon’s. Additionally, the South Korean President, Moon Jae In ordered a thorough investigation into three cases, including Jang Ja Yeon’s saying

There are cases that show extremely strong suspicions in the eyes of our citizens, but the truths haven’t been discovered for a long time, and [the truth for] some of them were even concealed. If we fail to clarify the truth behind the cases that occurred within the privileged class, we will not be able to talk of a righteous society. These cases may have happened in the past, but keep in mind that revealing the truth and exposing embarrassing facts [about themselves] in order to be reborn as trustworthy investigative agencies is a mission that needs to be carried out with responsibility by the current leaders of the prosecution and the police. The prosecution and the police will not be able to restore their fairness and public’s confidence in them as inspection agencies if they fail to reflect on their past of being powerless regarding the cases involving influential people, as well as clearly revealing the truth behind suspicions of deliberately performing weak investigation to protect and conceal [the truth from coming out]. The key point is to discover the tangible truth behind the cases and the suspicions of special treatment given by investigative organizations such as the prosecution, the police, and the National Tax Service.

The powerful people with connections were able to hide the truth and receive acquittal for the illegal activities and crimes they committed, while powerless citizens who were unfairly victimized had to tremble in fear without the protection of the law.

I emphasize once again that if we are unable to straighten out [the truth], we will never be able to talk of a righteous society. I ask that the Minister of Justice and the Minister of National Security take responsibility to reveal the truth and clarify each and every suspicion that was raised about the various cases.

This comes after a Blue House petition that has reached 658,642 signatures was started to demand the extension of the investigation. With the decision to extend the deadline for Jang Ja Yeon’s case and support from President Moon Jae In, following rallies from the public, new hope has been given to Jang Ja Yeon finding justice, and people responsible for death being held responsible.

Sources:
Korea Herald 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 | Hancinema: 1, 2, 3 | Soompi: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 | Asian Junkie: 1 | Kbizoom: 1 | KpopLove: 1

 

 

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