NOTE: This show was recorded live at 4 p.m. Seoul Time on Sunday, February 1st, 2009. It runs approximately 2 hours and 47 minutes. That is a bit long for some listeners. I still suggest you listen to the entire show. It’s the most powerful show we’ve ever released. 

Thank you for joining us on a special SeoulPodcast. On this episode we stray from the usual format to discuss a serious issue that has been off the radar of the Korean media. The year 2008 was wrought with news of expat deaths, from three D workers to English teachers. That year was not significant because of an increase in tragedies. It was significant because more spotlights shined on a handful of cases.

Nonetheless, there is an extraordinary number of mysterious unsolved deaths in the history of expatriates on the peninsula. This stems from a lack of professionalism in police, hospitals and government and from a media that is more obsessed with national image than reality.
With us today are three survivors whose loved ones have passed on but have never received answers and can never find closure.

Diane Blower comes to us from Great Britain. Her brother David Gearson had reportedly died by jumping off a bridge a few years ago. Written off as a suicide, there was little evidence to support such an assumption.

Lee Ramsey comes to us from Alabama. Her brother Matthew Sellers had lived and taught in Korea for a period of about ten years after completing his military duty. In mid April 2003, he ran into problems with a gang of Korean thugs and asked the U.S. Embassy for help retrieving his passport following a labor dispute. Their reaction was to just take a statement and file a report. Less than a week later, the Embassy got a call from a Korean police office saying that Matthew had been arrested and appeared to be homeless and confused. The police requested the Embassy send someone to assist him. The Embassy told the police to “deal with him.” The police took him to a mental hospital, where he was given drugs to calm him down. About 24 hours later, Matthew started experiencing breathing problems. Subsequent conflicting statements reported Matthew dying in the hospital or en route to a medical hospital. A mandatory preliminary autopsy was performed by the Seoul National Institute of Scientific Investigation listing his cause of death listed as “Not Clear.” When the family had a stateside pathologist perform a second autopsy at the funeral home, it indicated Matthew’s vital organs were not returned with his remains, preventing any possible determination of a solid cause of death.

Stephanie White comes to us from Daegu. Last year her son Michael White died in a sauna through what looks like a combination of foul play and medical incompetence. She has gone through multiple agencies, the U.S. Embassy and had even gotten the attention of former presidential candidate John McCain. She is currently fighting the Korean government in court to prevent her tragedy from happening to anyone else, Korean or not.

Their stories are chilling and a reminder that no one can stand by and allow this to continue.

More information:

Mightie Mike homepage
Murder in Room 103, Chapter One: The Dead American on Courttv.com
Brian in Jeollanam-do: Matthew Sellers and Bill Kapoun: Almost, kind of, a strange coincidence.
Death of U.S. Citizens Abroad

U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7 – Consular Affairs (PDF)