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Sunday, July 21, 2024

32-year cold case reopened: Victim’s daughter pleads, ‘I just want to know why’

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[Decades-old mystery: 4]

As the 32-year-old cold case of Bo Im Ko’s murder is reopened with a prime suspect identified, the Korea Daily reached out to the victim’s family to hear their perspective. Ko’s daughter, identified only by the last name Cha (68), currently residing in Orange County, shared her thoughts. Initially composed, she broke down in tears while recounting her mother’s tragic story.

Despite the many years that have passed, the shock of that day remains vivid.

– The case is being investigated after more than 30 years. How do you feel about this?
“I was relieved to hear the news from the investigator, but recounting the story felt burdensome. I regret that this wasn’t discovered 10 years earlier. My father passed away in 2015, and most others who remembered the incident are either elderly or have passed away, leaving few to recount the details.”


Family members mourning at the time of Bo Im Ko’s murder 32 years ago [JoongAng Photo]

– Do you remember the events from that time?
“I still can’t forget. When the police called to say my mother had died, I couldn’t believe it. It was shocking, and the question of ‘why’ has never left my mind. I still can’t understand why the perpetrator did such a horrible thing to my mother.”

[Bo Im Ko vanished after bank withdrawal, found murdered 2 days later]

[Breakthrough in 1992 Korean-American cold case: suspect identified after 32 years]

[Execution-style murder of Bo Im Ko: Money not the motive, reveals investigation]

[Decades-old Korean-American cold case progresses with cigarette butts and fingerprints]

– Can you describe what happened that day?
“Just two days before her disappearance, I had a meal with my mom. Nothing seemed unusual. She mentioned attending a church retreat, saying, ‘I welcomed God,’ and ‘I cried the most I’ve ever cried.’ On the day she went missing, she told my father she was going to the bank and then to a real estate office. She left around the bank’s opening time but didn’t return. At that time, I was running a market in Santa Ana. After my father reported her missing, I went to his house to wait for news. Two days later, we heard about her death. My brother and father immediately went to San Diego, but I wasn’t allowed to see her body and didn’t witness her terrible condition.”

– Do you know Dong Ho Won, the prime suspect?
“I’ve never heard of him before. My parents never mentioned him, which makes it very mysterious.”

– The district attorney’s office suggests a possible motive of personal enmity or a love affair. What are your thoughts on this?
“I find it hard to believe. My father and mother divorced when I was 7, and he moved to the United States in 1972. I joined him three years later and then sponsored my mother to come to the U.S. She had no ties here, so she lived with my father. I remember their relationship as being good. [The attorney’s office revealed that Cha’s father, Seung Il Kim, later married in Korea, and his new wife In Sun Kim, was also brought to the U.S. and lived together with Ko.] My mother ran a small donut shop across from my father’s gas station in Gardena. The business was going well until the incident occurred.”

– The district attorney’s office says Pil Hoon Oh was closely associated with your mother.
“I don’t know the details. Pil Hoon Oh was a close friend of my father, visiting the gas station almost daily and often coming to our house, staying out late. He even had a wife at the time. After my mother’s death, both he and his brother, Paul Oh, disappeared.”

– What was your mother like?
“She was very generous and always brought something to give to others. Whenever I went to the local bank, they said that everyone had received donuts from her. She came to the U.S. late in her age so she wasn’t familiar with the neighborhood. Her routine was limited to the shop and the bank on weekdays, and church and Costco on weekends. She didn’t know English well and struggled with driving, so I often accompanied her. It’s still hard to believe she was the victim of such a grave crime.”

– How would you like to see this case resolved?
“I’ve heard the suspect is already dead. Even if the real culprit is identified, there’s nothing we can do. However, I want to understand why this happened. I hope the truth is revealed while I’m still alive.”

BY SUAH JANG, YOUNGNAM KIM [jang.suah@koreadaily.com]