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The Death of Baby Jung-in of Seoul

Warning: This case contains some of the most heinous and inhumane acts committed towards a young child. Please proceed with caution. 

In this article, I will be talking about: 

  1. About baby Jung-in and how she died.
  2. Events that led to her death. 
  3. Who was responsible?
  4. What was the defence of the alleged culprits? 
  5. Was there justice served in this case? 

About Baby Jung-in 

Baby Jung-in was born on the 10th of June 2019, she was described as a very cheerful child by her birth mother. Unfortunately, her birth mother was not capable of providing for her child and thus, decided to give her eight-day-old baby to the church. 

Baby Jung-in stayed under the care of the church for about eight months and after which she was adopted by Jang Hayeong (born in 1986) and Ahn Sungeun (born 1984). Jang Hayeong was herself the daughter of a Pastor (father) and she was closely related to the church because of her parents. In addition, her husband’s father was also a Pastor. 

Prior to the adoption, they were already parents to their four-year-old biological daughter.  

Due to their background and appearance, they seemed like the perfect couple for baby Jung-in and therefore, the church decided to formally initiate the adoption process and by February 2020, baby Jung-in was officially adopted to the Ahn family and was given the name Ahn Yul-Ha. 

Events that Led to Her Death 

[Warning: Proceed with caution, discussion on severe child abuse and neglect.] 

Fast forward to October 13th of 2020 approximately after nine months of baby Jung-in’s adoption, her adoptive mother brought her to the hospital (by taxi) where she was declared dead only after a few hours of treatment and the reason for death was stated to be cardiac arrest. It was only after the results of the autopsy were out that proved the real and ultimate cause of baby Jung-in’s death. 

The autopsy revealed that the abdomen (stomach) was full of her own blood that shouldn’t be the case for a 16-month-old baby (or a healthy person for that matter) as stomachs are not supposed to have any blood in them. Often blood in the stomach is not a good sign and severe bleeding (as seen in the case of baby Jung-in who had 80 per cent of her blood in the stomach) does not happen in normal circumstances which raised the first big red flag indicating child abuse. 

In addition to her stomach being full of blood, her autopsy showed that baby Jung-in had suffered multiple bone fractures in the collarbone, ribs, and arms that had started healing, indicating that the bones must have been broken 2 to 4 months prior to her death. 

The result of the autopsy clearly stated the cause of death being “the amputation of her pancreas and severe damage to her internal organs that included the life-threatening intestinal rupture caused due to multiple external blows to her stomach”. 

Later, during the trial it was further (after a thorough investigation) stated that baby Jung-in had most likely suffered at least one final beating approximately 4 to 5 days prior to her death that proved to be fatal.  

After her death, this heartbreaking incident was aired as an episode on the investigative series called Unanswered Questions (그것이 알고 싶다) which led to a widespread outcry amongst the national as well as international people calling for justice for baby Jung-in. 

In this investigative episode, we find further evidence that proves that the culprits responsible for the death of the 16-month-old baby were none other than the adoptive parents. 

The first signs of abuse were noticed by the daycare centre. The people at the daycare started noticing multiple bruises on the body of baby Jung-in, sometimes the bruises were on her face or hands or legs. Seeing the bruises for the first “few” times, the daycare centre contacted the adoptive parents and enquired about the bruises, however, the parents constantly denied any suggestion of child abuse and firmly (or rather aggressively) stated that the bruising was due to some fall or some other irrelevant reason. 

After noticing that the severity of the bruises increased and the change in the behaviour of the child, the daycare centre informed the police and even took the child to the hospital (this time, they decided not to inform the adoptive parents). However, the police did not side with the daycare centre and stated that until and unless there are any “visible” cuts or broken bones, there could not be any case against the adoptive parents and thus, decided to completely ignore the case. 

After this incident, the adoptive parents verbally thrashed the employees of the daycare centre and caused a complete scene showing how they believe that the daycare centre is suggesting (without any evident cause) that the adoptive parents are abusive. This led to the stop of complaints by the daycare centre. 

Now, fast forward again to the day prior to the death of baby Jung-in, she was at her daycare centre showing visible signs of distress. The teachers noticed that she was finding it difficult to even stand let alone walk, unable to drink or eat anything but she was not crying or fussing about anything. The teachers also noticed that her belly was abnormally swollen.

Later, of course, we find the real reason why baby Jung-in acted the way she did during the last few hours of her life. As mentioned in the autopsy, it was the severe intestinal and organ damage that caused baby Jung-in to be unable to do any of the basic tasks. Furthermore, she was unable to eat or drink anything because of the blood in her stomach. According to experts, it was stated in the court that the condition in which baby Jung-in was must have been causing her excruciating pain. Some questioned this statement asking why baby Jung-in didn’t cry or say anything but it was later stated by professionals that due to the excessive pain she was put through during her time with her adoptive parents, she gradually became numb to the pain. 

On the final day of baby Jung-in, through a video on the adoptive mother’s phone, it was exposed how baby Jung-in was forced to walk even though she was in extreme pain by her adoptive mother who was shouting and screaming at baby Jung-in and demanding that she walk. Later, through CCTV evidence, it was shown how the adoptive mother decided to leave baby Jung-in home alone even though she was in extreme pain and went to drop her biological daughter at the daycare centre and then to a lingerie store. 

When she finally went home, she saw Jung-in and messaged her husband whether she should take baby Jung-in to the hospital by taxi or the ambulance. After taking the taxi, to the ER, baby Jung-in was declared dead. 

The seemingly “perfect” couple who adopted baby Jung-in proved to be nothing less than monsters.

Who was Responsible? 

  1. The primary suspect in the case was the adoptive mother, Jang Hayeong. 
  2. The secondary suspect in the case was the adoptive father, Ahn Sungeun. 

What was the Defence of the Alleged Culprits?

  1. The primary defence taken by the mother was of accidental death and stated that she did not intentionally cause any harm.
  2. She even pleaded not guilty and her defence stated that it was a case of child abuse fatality which is different from murder (having a much lesser sentence). 
  3. As for her husband, he denied any involvement in the abuse. 

Was There Justice Served?

Thankfully, the Seoul Southern District Court found the adoptive parents guilty and sentenced: 

  1. The woman to life in prison and denied her claim of accidental and unintentional death. 
  2. The man was sentenced to five years in prison for child abuse and aiding (plus abetting) the woman’s violence towards their adoptive daughter. 

The decision was taken after looking at the evidence put forth in the court that contradicted the claims of the suspects. As in the court, it was proved that baby Jung-in was put through a prolonged period of abuse and her adoptive mother obviously had knowledge of her actions indicating “intention of bodily harm”. Sadly, the prosecutors later presented the court with video evidence (approximately 800 videos or so) collected from the woman’s own phone where she was seen hurting and abusing the child.

Although the court did manage to give some level of justice for baby Jung-in but ultimately, this case raises the number one question of “did baby Jung-in had to die?” If only, the first signs of abuse were taken seriously by the police then probably baby Jung-in would still be alive.  

Please note that the pictures used in this post were taken from the Youtube channel Unanswered Questions (그것이 알고 싶다).


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