In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal explored the mass suicide committed by Park Soon-ja and her followers. Some investigators at that time liked to believe that it was a homicide disguised as a suicide.
On August 30, 1987, a day after the bodies of Park Soon-ja and her followers were found, the prosecutor announced that Park Soon-ja killed herself because she had a lot of debts.
Park Soon-ja’s followers did the same, as they depended on her spiritually. The prosecutor called it a tragic mass suicide caused by religious fanaticism.
Many investigators felt the investigation wasn’t carried out properly. The government probably didn’t want to complicate things by saying that it was a murder.
Kim Hyeon, the chairman of the Special Investigation Committee, took over the case back then, believing that this incident was a murder disguised as a suicide.
Mystery around Lee Gyeong-su’s death
It was believed that Lee Gyeong-su, the manager of Park Soon-ja’s factory, strangled everyone to death and then hanged himself at the end. The marks around his neck told a different story.
The ligature mark was all around his neck just like the other bodies, which means he was also strangled to death. A look at the pictures taken at the site suggests that the rope is not touching the back of his neck at all.
This revelation hints that someone else strangled Lee Gyeong-su to death; he didn’t hang himself after killing everyone else.
Did Lee Gyeong-su really kill 31 people?
Lee Gyeong-su killed 31 people all by himself didn’t make sense either. It would have taken him two months to do so. Also, if he had strangled all 31 people to death, there must have been signs of friction on his hands, but his hands were squeaky clean.
Lee Gyeong-su aside, the theory that they all killed each other made no sense either. A more logical explanation is that someone else killed them all.
If it is to be assumed that they all were killed, then it would take more than six people to do the job and 10 hours to finish it.
The mystery surrounding Park Soon-ja’s death
Upon examining Park Soon-ja’s body, the investigators found ligature marks but also lacerations all over her skin. These marks suggest that when the killer was strangling her to death, Park Soon-ja was resisting.
An autopsy of Park Soon-ja’s head revealed a hemorrhage under her scalp, which suggests that she was attacked and assaulted violently before being killed.
The kind of hemorrhage that was found under Park Soon-ja’s scalp only appears when the person is hit by a hammer or slammed into a wall. It was concluded that Park Soon-ja died first, then the others. If looked at similar cult incidents, the leaders never die first.
The location of the bodies
Another hypothesis says that the ceiling where Park Soon-ja and her followers died wasn’t suitable for suicide; someone killed them outside and placed them there.
The bodies were stacked up on plywood because if the plywood wasn’t there, the bodies would’ve fallen from the ceiling. Killing other people up there while there are 13 bodies piled up in one corner was not possible.
Furthermore, on the day of the incident, during the period of time in which all of these victims are assumed to have died, Park Soon-ja’s van, which is parked outside the factory, entered and left the factory two times.
Considering these two testimonies, there is a chance someone murdered them elsewhere and placed their bodies in the ceiling.
The food and the clothes
At the location, a urine container, a water container, cups, and rationed food were also discovered. Park Soon-ja and her followers stayed there for four days. During these days, they must have eaten and defecated. There was enough food in stock, suggesting that they had plans to stay there for a very long period of time.
Placing the bodies on the top of the ceiling wouldn’t have been any easier. Also, the clothes of the victims looked tidy, and their wrists and ankles were tied sloppily using blankets. So clearly, they must have been dead before being placed there.
Notes found at the location later led the investigators to Samwoo Trading Company’s CEO, Yoo Byeong-un. The investigators found out that the money Five Oceans borrowed from people went to Samwoo Trading Company.
Yoo Byeong-un was only charged with fraud in relation to the money he received from Park Soon-ja. It is said that Yoo Byeong-un didn’t help Park Soon-ja and her followers when they were wanted by the police, and that’s why she and her followers committed suicide.
The investigators failed to find evidence that suggested Park Soon-ja and her followers were murdered. Yoo Byeong-un received only a four-year prison sentence. He died later during a Sewol ferry disaster in 2014