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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

35-year-old cold case: Body identified as Korean woman through DNA testing

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ChongUn Kim, 26, of Hinesville, Liberty County.


A partial body found in a trash can 35 years ago has been identified as a Korean woman. At the time, the case was referred to as the “Valentine’s Day Death Case,” and it remained a longstanding cold case due to the lack of DNA testing technology.

On October 23, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announced that a partial body found in a Jenkins County dumpster on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 1988, has been identified as ChongUn Kim, 26, of Hinesville, Liberty County.

The GBI reported that a woman’s body was found stuffed inside a suitcase, wrapped in plastic and duct tape, in a dumpster on Feb. 14, 1988, in Jenkins County. Investigators determined that the woman had been dead for four to seven days and had died of asphyxiation.

Investigators compared the body’s fingerprints and dental records with missing persons lists, but were unable to make an identity match. The GBI created a profile sketch of the woman and received a tip, but the case remained stalled.

“As DNA technology advanced over the years, police resubmitted evidence to the GBI Crime Lab for additional testing,” the GBI said. “Analysts found DNA on the items submitted, but the profiles obtained were not eligible for entry into the CODIS DNA Database.”

The case, unsolved for 35 years, was reignited this year when the GBI partnered with Othram, a Texas-based company providing advanced DNA testing services. Othram used its Genealogy Technology and forensic-grade gene sequencing to uncover clues about the victim.

The woman, identified as ChongUn Kim, was born in South Korea and immigrated to the United States in 1981, according to the GBI. She resided in Hinesville, Georgia, until her demise. Authorities have also notified Kim’s surviving family of the identification.

The GBI has released a photo of Kim and is accepting tips at (912-871-1121) or (1-800-597-8477).

Tips can also be submitted online at (gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online).

BY HYOUNGJAE KIM, JUNHAN PARK    [kim.ian@koreadaily.com]