February 24, 1955
|Died||April 27, 1982 (aged 27)|
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Date||April 26 – 27, 1982|
c. 9:30 p.m. – 3:40 a.m.
|Location(s)||Uiryeong, South Korea|
|Killed||57 (including himself)|
|Weapons||Two M2 carbines|
Seven hand grenades
|Revised Romanization||U Beom-gon|
Woo Bum-kon (or Wou Bom-kon, February 24, 1955 – April 27, 1982) was a South Korean policeman and spree killer who killed 62 people and wounded 33 others in several villages in Uiryeong County, South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea, during the night from April 26 to April 27, 1982, before committing suicide.
His rampage remained the deadliest known mass murder committed by a lone gunman in modern history until the Norway attacks of July 22, 2011. It was also the deadliest deliberate single loss of life in South Korean history until the Daegu subway fire in 2003.
Woo had served in the South Korean marines, where he was recognised as a skilled marksman until his discharge in 1978. From April 11, 1981 to December 30, 1981, he served as a police officer, and with his marksmanship ability, was able to work as a guard at the Blue House. However, his excessive drinking habits which included loss of control caused him to be demoted to his position at Kungyu Village, Uiryeong.
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Woo had an argument with his live-in girlfriend, Chun Mal-soon (전말순), on the afternoon of April 26, 1982, after she had woken him by swatting a fly on his chest. Enraged, he left the house and went to the police station, where he reported for duty at 4:00 p.m. According to early reports, he began drinking heavily, though eyewitnesses later stated that Woo did not appear drunk during his rampage, and according to local officials, he would have been unable to cover 4 km (2.5 mi) of difficult, rocky terrain while intoxicated.
At about 7:30 p.m., Woo returned home, punched and kicked his girlfriend and smashed the furniture, before making his way to the reservists' armory and gathering several weapons, consisting of two M2 carbines, 144-180 rounds of ammunition, and seven hand grenades. Some reports stated that the other officers were at a meeting, and he therefore managed to grab the weapons unnoticed, though others mentioned that he had intimidated the guards to gain access.
At approximately 9:30 p.m., Woo shot his first victim and entered the local post office, where he killed three phone operators and cut off the telephone lines. He next went to Torongni, where he threw a grenade and shot at passers-by in the marketplace, killing six people. He also wounded Chun Mal-soon, who had gone to investigate after hearing shots in the village. From that point on, he proceeded from village to village, taking advantage of his position as a police officer to gain entry to the houses and shoot their inhabitants.
At 10:30 p.m., Woo took 18-year-old Kim Ju-dong (김주동) hostage and moved to Ungye-Ri (운계리), where he ordered Kim to get him a soft drink from a grocery store owned by 52-year-old Shin We-do (신외도). After getting what he had asked for, Woo killed Kim and then attacked the store owner and his family. Shin We-do managed to escape after being shot in the leg, though his wife Son Won-jeom (손원점) and his daughters Chang-sun (창순) and Su-jeong (수정) were killed. Woo continued his shooting at the market-place, killing a total of 18 people in that village, before making his way towards Pyongchon-Ni (평촌리).
At Pyongchon-Ni, he shot a family of four in their beds and then went to a house, where a wake was in progress. When the owner of the house saw the armed policeman and asked what had happened, Woo explained that there was an alert as North Korean agents had been spotted. The man invited Woo into the house for dinner, during which the latter complained about his small salary and his transfer from Pusan to the countryside. Woo eventually began shooting at the guests after one of them had remarked that his ammunition did not look real. He killed twelve people in the house and a further eight in the streets, thus leaving a total of 24 people dead in Pyongchon-ni.
Police response, suspect's death
Although police were alerted within minutes of the first shots being fired, it took them an hour to gather a team of 37 officers to search for the gunman, and the national police headquarters in Seoul were not informed until 1:40 a.m. Around that time, just 4 km (2.5 mi) from the police station in Kungryu, Woo found refuge in a farmhouse belonging to 68-year-old Suh In-Su (서인수), whom he told that he was chasing a Communist infiltrator, and that the family should gather in the main room of the house so he could protect them. When the family gathered at his request, he held them hostage.
Two hours later, police eventually caught up with him, and as forces closed in, Woo detonated two grenades, killing himself and three of his hostages. Suh himself survived gravely injured. Four rounds of ammunition and one hand grenade were recovered by police from inside the farmhouse.
When the rampage finally ended, 55 people and Woo himself were dead, while 36 others were wounded, six of them seriously. One of the injured, a child who had been shot, died on May 8, bringing the number of people killed by the gunman to 56. At that time, 35 people were still being treated in hospitals in Jinju and Masan.
Chun Mal-soon later said that her boyfriend "suffered from an inferiority complex and had been bothered by villagers' comments on their living together unmarried". Later on, the provincial chief of police was suspended and four other officers were arrested for negligence of duty.
The Interior Minister of South Korea, Suh Chung-hwa, and the national police chief, A Eung-mo, offered to resign as a form of atonement for Woo's rampage. Suh Chung-hwa, being held responsible for the incident by president Chun Doo-hwan, resigned his commission on April 29, and Roh Tae-woo was appointed Interior Minister.
A special parliamentary team was formed, consisting of 19 parliamentarians and led by Home Affairs Committee chairman Kim Chong-hoh, to investigate the shooting and its disastrous handling by the police. Furthermore, the South Korean Cabinet decided to pay compensations to the victims and their families.
- "South Korean Shootings Lead Minister to Resign". The New York Times. April 29, 1982.
- "Norway massacre 'work of a madman'". breakingNEWS.ie. July 23, 2011.
- "Cop kills 55 after quarrel with mistress". New Straits Times. April 28, 1982.
- 동아일보, April 28, 1982, p. 7
- "Berserk Korean policeman kills 62". Gainesville Sun. April 27, 1982.
- "Berserk South Korea cop slay total of 56 people". Lodi News-Sentinel. April 28, 1982.
- "사망자 56·부상 35명|일부 사망자수 중복…집계 엇갈려". news.joins.com. April 28, 1982.
- "Korean policeman's rampage leaves 58 dead". The Daily Union. April 27, 1982.
- "Minister sacked over massacre". New Straits Times. April 29, 1982.
- "Ricochet from a rampage". Far Eastern Economic Review. May 7, 1982.
- "Murder toll rises to 56". The Straits Times. May 10, 1982.
- "Seoul is stunned by policeman's slaying of 56". The New York Times. April 28, 1982.
- "Victims of amok slayings to get compensation". New Straits Times. April 30, 1982. p. 8.
- "Korean policeman goes berserk, kills 58 people", The Deseret News (April 27, 1982), p. 1
- "Korean cop's rampage leaves 58 dead", Ocala Star-Banner (April 27, 1982)
- "Korean policeman's rampage kills 58", Boca Raton News (April 27, 1982)
- "Berserk Korean policeman kills 62", Gainesville Sun (April 27, 1982)
- "Drunken South Korean policeman kills 62", The Ledger (April 27, 1982)
- "Berserk cop kills 53", Ellensburg Daily Record (April 27, 1982)
- "Korean cop massacres 58", Eugene Register-Guard (April 27, 1982)
- "Funerals begin for 57 victims of massacre by Korean cop", Ocala Star-Banner (April 28, 1982)
- "Korean massacre area flooded with donations", Eugene Register-Guard (April 28, 1982)
- "Korean's shooting rampage triggered by swat of a fly", St. Petersburg Times (April 28, 1982), Florida
- "Death toll in rampage put at 62", The Age (April 28, 1982)
- "Drunken Korean kills 58", The Free-Lance Star (April 27, 1982)
- "28명 죽이고 초상집 문상… 부의금 3000원 낸 뒤 또 난사", The Hankyoreh (April 13, 2012)