The Messed Up Truth Of The Raincoat Killer

South Korean serial killer and self-confessed cannibal Yoo Young-chul is perhaps best known as the "raincoat killer" for his choice of always wearing a raincoat, including at the time of his arrest. During a period of 10 months starting in September 2003, Yoo murdered 21 people — mutilating, burning, and dismembering many of them as well.

According to Absolute Crime, Yoo had a somewhat difficult childhood. After his parents separated soon after his birth, he went to live with his grandmother for a while. Even after returning to his father's house, the family lived in poverty, and Yoo was often teased because of it. This was the beginning of his hate for the rich that would eventually lead to murder.

By the time he was 19, he had already been arrested for theft twice and sentenced to 10 months in jail. He married his girlfriend in 1993 and had a son in 1994, but was arrested for theft, forgery, and selling pornography in between and after those events. Then, in the year 2000, he was sentenced to more than three years in prison for raping a 15-year-old, prompting his with to divorce him. Shockingly, this would mark the end of Yoo's "normal" life; he would commit his first murder just three weeks after being released from prison in 2003 (via Murderpedia).

First murders and the start of the killing spree

Yoo Young-chul got the idea to start killing people while serving time in prison and reading an article there about serial killer Jeong Du-yeong, who, between 1999 and 2000, killed several wealthy people. Yoo spent much of his time in prison planning a series of copycat murders and, once released, actually practiced by killing dogs, according to The Cho Sun.

But Yoo's obsession with violence started much earlier, as police would eventually discover a collection of movies, posters, and DVDs celebrating violence and murder (per Murderpedia). According to Korea JoogAng Daily, he also seemed to know a lot about prolific South Korean serial killers, including the infamous Woo Beom-gon, who, in one night in 1982, killed 56 people and wounded dozens more. 

Netflix's new docu-series "The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea" is now taking a look into one of the worst serial killers in the history of South Korea through never-before-seen archival footage and interviews surrounding Yoo's arrest and conviction. And the revelations are shocking. 

What triggered the attacks

Yoo Young-chul killed all his victims within a short period of time. The first four attacks all targeted older, wealthy people living in residential buildings, according to Murderpedia. After his arrest, Yoo told the police this was borne out of a hatred towards well-to-do people and a system that rewarded wealth and punished the poor. Yoo himself had grown up in poverty and felt resentful for his "family and economic environment and those feelings transformed into hostility against the rich" (via Talk Murder).

There was never any indication that You tried to take valuables from any of the homes. He did, however, try to mask his crimes as robberies gone wrong, which is why during the fourth attack, he actually tried to break into a safe (per Murderpedia).

The first attack happened on September 24, 2003, when he stabbed a 72-year-old man in the neck and then killed his wife with a hammer. Less than two weeks later, on October 9, he broke into another home and killed two elderly people and a disabled adult son with a hammer. He then attacked a 60-year-old woman on October 16, and then an elderly resident and his housekeeper on November 18, according to Grave Reviews and Murderpedia. During this last attack, he cut himself while trying to open a safe, which led to him burning down the house to hide forensic evidence, as reported by Murderpedia. 

Why Yoo switched victims

By then, the police were closing in on the killings, so Yoo "took a break" from the murders, according to Grave Reviews. This coincided with the time that he started dating a female sex worker. When she found out about his crimes and broke up with him, he made the decision to kill escorts from then on as a way to seek revenge.

Between May and July 2004, Yoo may have killed as many as 11 sex workers by luring them to his apartment, then either choking them or killing them with a hammer. He would then mutilate the body and sometimes decapitate the victim, scattering body parts in humid forested or mountain areas where he hoped they would decompose quickly (via Absolute Crime). Later on, when in custody, he would claim that he ate part of his victims' livers "to cope with his epilepsy" and "to cleanse his spirit" (as reported via The ChoSun), although police at the time could not verify those claims.

As reported via Talk Murder, police would also say later that he "used axes, knives, and scissors to cut [the bodies] into pieces" and "tore off the victims' fingertips so there would be no prints to identify them." Later on, he would confess to also murdering other victims, including two street vendors whom he thought had scammed him and stabbing a girl he mistook for an escort.

It wasn't the police who finally caught him

For months, Yoo took advantage of the underground sex market to lure escorts and prostitutes to his apartment so he could then kill them. According to Absolute Crime, the murders raised the suspicions of local massage parlors and pimps. Yoo was eventually caught when he called a local parlor and the owner recognized the number. As several of his employees had disappeared recently, the owner notified the police as soon as Yoo called again, says Korea JoongAng Daily.

It was eventually the massage parlor owner and employees who captured the infamous serial killer, as the lone police officer who arrived in response to the phone call eventually left before Yoo arrived. When Yoo showed up later, he was captured by the workers and detained until another police officer who happened to be nearby responded to the scuffle and arrested him.

Yoo was carrying phone cards and a fake police badge when captured and immediately confessed to killing 21 people, even leading the police to some of the remains, according to Absolute Crime. When asked about the motive behind his murders, he claimed that "Women shouldn't be sluts, and the rich should know what they've done" (via Murderpedia).

Sentencing and current status

Prosecuting Yoo presented a number of difficulties. He was diagnosed as not being mentally ill but presenting symptoms of an anti-social disorder. He also appeared to have no remorse or interest in reflecting on his crimes (per The Cho Sun). Prosecutors weren't even sure at one point whether Yoo was telling the truth about the number of people he had killed, as he seemed prone to exaggeration, repeating over and over that he would've killed a hundred people if they hadn't caught him.

The trial itself was extremely difficult as well. Yoo would fake epilepsy attacks, lunge at the judges and a court spectator, and even refuse to appear (per Grave Reviews). While Yoo talked about keeping a "murder diary," this was never found and a case was eventually built based just on his confession and the bodies eventually recovered, as reported via Korea JoongAng Daily.

Yoo was officially charged with 20 murders (as authorities were suspicious the 21st murder had actually been committed by somebody else) and found guilty on all counts. His conviction reignited a long-standing debate on the death penalty in South Korea. According to Talk Murder and Murderpedia, although technically permissible in the country, no inmates have been executed since 1997, so although Yoo has been sentenced to die for his crimes, he remains on death row at the Seoul Detention Center as of 2021.