You asked me to summarize what happened last Tuesday (May 26) and I'll try to be concise. For the past year, my lawyer has been telling me that the civil court Judges could recommend a more thorough criminal investigation into Mike's murder. With color photos showing bruises beginning to surface less than 3 hours after the 'event' finally being made available on April 10, 2009, I had hoped for a stronger showing in court. Also disappointing was the absence of [name removed because of complaint], the Los Angeles Times Seoul Bureau Chief who had planned to come to Gyeongsan on Monday, and basically spend time with me, viewing Mike's home and attending court with me. Instead, he switched to cover North Korea's nukes. I dont doubt there will be pressure applied for him to 'keep cozy' with Korea's sparkling image, since US alliance will be more important now that we're 'on the brink of war' -- again. I haven't heard from him since he told me he didn't have time for my case nor would he consider running the article already researched & written by a freelancer.
That directions feels a bit frosty to me. [Addition, 6/1/09 19:45 - While the North Koreans have been jerking everyone around, John has been balancing researching Mike's case with the demands being placed on him by the LA Times to cover the 'pending war' on the peninsula and the untimely death of the former president. Between John being overworked with the NK nukes & missiles, covering Roh's suicide/funeral and sundry other tidbits like protesters & cybercrimes and myself being stretched to the limit with the Korean legal oligarchy, lack of sleep and job insecurity, it was easy for miscommunication between John & I to occur. John is adamant about covering Mike's story and insists on covering it. While he is still bound to cover breaking news in Seoul, he is ferocious in his determination to cover Mike's story before I leave for the US. After a year of isolation and hardship, it's difficult for me to open up and trust anyone, yet John's obvious passion for justice and human rights tempts me to do just that...trust him] There was an older female reporter there, waiting to interview me & get a scoop. I dont know which paper she was from, only recognizing her press credentials. She didn't recognize me because I've gone back to my natural hair color. I only dyed my hair blonde to make myself 'more white' and to cover my grey for career enhancement. Amazing how a little thing like changing hair color can be such a 'disguise'.
So once again, I was alone in court. Even my lawyer has become a turncoat, leaving me truly alone. The trial session before ours ran into overtime, causing our case to be rescheduled. Even though I had the permission and assurances of the court & my lawyer that I could go home for three weeks this summer without missing a court date, they still rescheduled for a time I would be away. My plane ticket, sporadic hotels/campgrounds between couch surfing, rental car, have all been paid for. Because they were all purchased on "deep discount" there is no travel insurance/refunds available that will cover these (travel insurance only applies to medical). With no overtime in a year, my budget is very tight and there's still a funeral to pay for. The customs paperwork on Mike's ashes are only good for one year. I must get him out of the country by August 28 or he is stuck here. Had I left his ashes in storage, an extension might have been possible. But since I brought his ashes home with me (to avoid storage fees), customs wont inspect the ashes for contraband and they wont give an extension without security assurances, like a mortuary storage. As are all things in Korea, I'm sure I could grease the way for an extension, but I dont know how & dont have that kinda money.
In a nutshell, there's not a whole lot more I can do to motivate the court to look at the criminal aspects of the case or to recommend a real investigation. My lawyer and opposition team seem to already have a game plan in play. My lawyer lied to the court & told them I was asking not to be there on June 30. He then lied to me saying he 'forgot' the dates I'd be in the US. If my own lawyer is working against justice, I have no reason to be there except to show my face. What good does it do me to 'show my face to court' when I am there alone. The families of the other parties are there, spouses, friends (no children this past date). The message to the court is that the foreign community doesnt' give a damn & well...why shouldn't they do what they want?
As we were leaving the courthouse last Tuesday the opposition lawyer for the 119 EMT worker had some snarky words for my lawyer. The 119 EMT guy then flat out told my lawyer he was going to lie on the stand, telling the court the Mike was already dead when they arrived and that the second 119 EMT doing chest compressions (not full CPR) was in essence 'practicing' since Mike was already dead.
My lawyer 'benedict' then relays to me the conversation, and tells me there is no penalty for perjury in Korea. My lawyer is a member of some elite lawyers club in Seoul. He's the oldest attorney involved in the case. He should be pulling rank, after all, he's got superior knowledge, years of experience, I dont understand why he can't 'break' the guy on the stand.
What does this mean? It means the opposition team is getting ready to go on the offensive and to reduce the award amount as much as possible. My lawyer, concerned more about his commission, is abandoning my goal of exposing evidence that indicates there are strong indications of foul play.
What does this mean to me? not much really. Let's face it, there's only a slim chance I'll ever actually collect on an award amount. What could this have meant to the foreign community had we been able to show a stronger unified force in watching over the developments of this case? Kill a foreigner and the rest of us will expose it & come after you. Instead, we reinforce the idea that they operate in a reality unrelated to human rights & equal protection under the law, so if you happen to kill a foreigner or two, dont worry, it will just be another isolated unfortunate accident.
I have done what I can to start a trend of justice for victims of crime in Korea. Spreading the word, blogging to raise awareness is all well in good, but there's no real actions being made by foreigners enmasse. (going to court, letters to the editor of news papers etc). The hand full of action oriented foreigner who have stood up over this past year are just as tired as I am.
I've decided to go home and conduct Mike's rites of passage to honor him, our shared memories, and to bring his spirit strengh & guidance for his journey. I can't allow our spiritual bonds to be broken and these things are far overdue.
I have done what I can. It's time for other foreigners to go to court in my stead or kneel down before Korean oppression and never again look up in defiance when one of our own is assaulted/raped/murdered.
Monday, June 1, 2009
(Updated) Update from Stephannie White.
I've been following her status updates lately, especially those regarding developments in the case of the death of her 14-year-old son Michael last year in a Gyeongsan sauna. I asked her to summarize her latest court case, and here is what she sent me: