U.S. authorities have located international fugitive Kyung Ho Song in his native South Korea, more than a decade after he fled Illinois to avoid being tried for drunken driving and reckless homicide in an accident that killed a 43-year-old single mother.
The search for Song was reactivated last spring after the Chicago Tribune contacted prosecutors and police about the dormant case. Even though U.S. authorities discovered Song’s location in December, they have yet to formally request help from South Korean officials, and it is not clear when or if Song might be extradited back to Illinois.
His case provides another glimpse into the gaps and lack of coordination in the criminal justice system that allow border-crossing fugitives to avoid prosecution.
Law enforcement officials would not comment on why there was no progress in the case for so many years, but one official suggested that it languished because of a lack of communication among the police, county prosecutors, federal agents and Justice Department officials. All played some role in pursuing Song, but none seemed to take stewardship of the extradition effort and push the case.
The Tribune's “Fugitives From Justice” series, an examination of more than 200 international fugitives cases from northern Illinois and thousands more nationwide, spotlighted Song's case in November. Tribune reporters then teamed up with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to try to locate Song.
Independent of authorities, Tribune and ICIJ reporters in recent weeks found Song in a glass and concrete high-rise apartment in Yongin, a quiet residential suburb about an hour and half’s drive from the capital city of Seoul.
During four interviews, the once-prosperous shoe store owner, who is now 73, bemoaned how his life had unraveled since his flight.
“I am such an unlucky guy,” Song said.