SEOUL, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Advancements in DNA analysis technology helped South Korean police identify the prime suspect in the nation's most infamous serial killer case that went unsolved for some 30 years.
A 56-year-old-man, now in jail, is suspected of being involved in deaths of at least three of 10 women aged 13 to 71 who were raped and brutally killed in Hwaseong, some 37 miles south of Seoul, between 1986 and 1991, police said Thursday.
The killings shook the country due to their cruelty.
The suspect lurked in farmlands or on paths in rural villages in Hwaseong, targeting women who were on their way home late at night or at dawn. He mostly strangled his victims with the use of their own belongings, such as stockings or socks.
More than 2 million police officers, a record number for a single case, were mobilized to investigate the deaths. But the whereabouts of the suspect had remained out of authorities' grasps, a major disgrace for the police.
The Hwaseong murder case became the main inspiration for the hit 2003 Korean movie "Memories of Murder" by director Bong Joon-ho of the Cannes-winning "Parasite."
But recent improvements in DNA genealogy investigation made it possible for police to identify the major suspect in the country's most infamous cold case.
In July, a team tasked with investigating unsolved cases at the Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency sent part of the evidence related to the Hwaseong killings to the state forensic agency and asked for DNA analysis tests.
"We've learned that detecting DNA was possible in some cases after the passage of a long time even if DNA was not detected in the first place. That's a [starting] point where we asked for forensic analysis," Ban Ki-soo, a senior police officer at the agency, told a press briefing in Suwon, south of Seoul.
The results showed DNA collected from a victim's lingerie matched with his in the ninth murder case. Police said the suspect's DNA also was detected in evidence related to two other cases but declined to elaborate.
"The test results showing a DNA match provided a clue for the investigative agency," he said.
Using DNA genealogy analysis has helped solve high-profile criminal cases, which have remained elusive for decades in other countries as well.
In December 2018, a 74-year-old suspect was arrested in the United States via a DNA technology probe for killing Stanford University graduate Leslie Marie Perlov in 1973.
As for the Hwaseong case, Ban said further investigation is needed to confirm the suspect's responsibility for the other deaths.
The suspect denied the allegations surrounding the Hwaseong killings during the police's latest probe.
He is now in prison for life for the rape and murder of his wife's sister in 1994.
Though the prime suspect has been identified, he will not be punished as the statute of limitations on the Hwaseong case expired in April 2006. The National Assembly removed the statute of limitations for murder in 2015, but the change didn't affect the Hwaseong crimes.
The police agency said it is currently analyzing a piece of evidence to uncover the truth about the case.