There has been many murder cases involving USFK servicemembers over the years, however there probably not one that was more gruesome than the murder committed by West Virginia native Private Kenneth L. Markle. Markle was a 20 year old medic assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division when he was arrested for murdering a Korean prostitute named Kum-i Yun in the Dongducheon ville outside of Camp Casey on October 28, 1992. Ms. Yun’s dead body was discovered beaten with an umbrella in her anus, a coke bottle in her vagina, and laundry detergent spread all over her.
The Poory Chop Store building was where the gruesome crime scene was located.
Private Markle was arrested two days after the crime when an employee that worked at the Crown Club that Markle left Ms. Yun with, recognized him.
Article from the November 23, 1992 edition of the Stars & Stripes.
After Markle was arrested for the crime he claimed that he hit Ms. Yun four times over the head with a bottle after she attacked him. During the trial he said that she was alive when he left the room because he heard her groaning. However, Markle was proven to have lied about whether she was alive or not when Special Agent Willie Evans who was the chief polygraph examiner for the Army Criminal Investigation Division testified that Markle told him during a pre-polygraph questioning period that Ms. Yun was dead when he left the room.
Evans further testified that Markle told him that he was sure she was dead because he was a trained medic and checked her pulse. Evans further testified that Markle felt sorry about what happened, but that she attacked him first and that she “had an ass-whipping coming”. Evans said that after Markle realized that he killed her that he sat in a corner and cried. Evans then concluded his testimony by saying Markle also failed his polygraph test. The parts he failed were in regards to whether he had sex with her, put the Coke bottle in her vagina, the umbrella in her anus, and spread the detergent on her.
Article from the March 26, 1993 edition of the Stars & Stripes.
Instead of simply denying he killed Ms. Yun, Markle during the trial tried to pin the blame on another soldier Specialist Jason Lambert.
Lambert was 22 years old and also assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division. Markle claimed that he got into a fight that night with Lambert when he was trying to be a good Samaritan and help a drunken Ms. Yun he saw on the street back to her room. Markle claims that Lambert confronted him because Yun was his girlfriend and wanted to take her back to the room. Markle says he told Lambert that he would take her back and not Lambert. When Markle got Ms Yun into her room that is when she supposedly attacked him leading to him defending himself. Markle then claimed that when he came out he saw Lambert and he told him that he was going to go inside to have sex with Ms. Yun. Markle concluded his testimony by claiming Lambert then went inside the room. Markle also claimed that Lambert made a statement to investigators that he admitted going into the room 10 minutes after Markle left. Markle also claimed that Lambert was bragging to friends about the murder scene. Finally Markle has claimed that semen found inside of Ms. Yun was from a different blood type, not his. I have seen no evidence to support any of Markle’s claims about Lambert.
What Markle’s defense comes down to is that he bashed Ms. Yun with the bottle as an act of self defense and left her unconscious while Lambert went in and killed her to get back at Markle for a confrontation that supposedly happened earlier that night. This whole scenario is contradicted by the CID special agent’s testimony. Also Lambert denied Markle’s claims about what happened. Lambert testified that he went to Ms. Yun’s room three times while Markle was inside and heard sounds that indicated they were having sex. He said he left before Markle came out.
Also of note is that during the trial the Korean Hankyoreh reported that Markle was a barracks thief and troublemaker in days before the incident happened:
First Leutenant John Glin who used the same room with Markle testified Markle’s habit of theft in court. Markle’s nickname was ‘barrack shoes’; he got this nickname when his colleagues’ things were found in his locker. Markle was disciplined for fighting his ranking officers; he was to mow the lawn in a rainy day. Markle, with a knife in his hand, said he would commit a suicide. In the next day of the crime, Markle told first leutenant Glin “If someone knows what I did on Tuesday, he will not be able to see me forever.”
On April 14, 1993 Private Markle was ultimately convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison, but his sentence would later be reduced by the Korean court to 15 years.
Article from the April 15, 1993 edition of the Stars & Stripes.
Of interest though was that during the conviction the Seoul District Court Judge Byon Dong-gul stated the testimony by Specialist Lambert was inconsistent and that he may have lied.
Article from the April 16, 1993 edition of the Stars & Stripes.
I have found nothing in the media discussing what Lambert may have lied about. However, unconfirmed speculation that I have heard is that Lambert made claims about not being in an altercation with Ms. Yun the night prior though witnesses confirm that he did have an altercation with her. Once again this is unconfirmed speculation, but it would be interesting to know what the Korean court thought Lambert lied about during the trial. After the trial Specialist Jason Lambert returned to the United States and was discharged from the Army.
Article from the November 27, 1993 edition of the Stars & Stripes.
Also of note is that the after the conviction in August of 1993 USFK paid Ms. Yun’s family $93,889 in compensation money.
The Anti-US Movement
There had been other GI murderers before Markle, but nothing as gruesome as this had ever happened before. Besides the gruesome nature of the crime the anti-US movement in South Korea was gaining momentum as South Korea was exiting its military ruler years and entering into an era of democracy. This era of democracy allowed long suppressed voices within the nation to express their anti-US point of view. The anti-US activist who would not normally care about a prostitute like Ms. Yun were more than happy to exploit her death to advance their cause. If a prostitute like Ms. Yun was killed the way she was by a Korean hardly anyone would care, the fact a US soldier did it is what made this news.
During the trial Private Markle was kept in custody at the Camp Humphreys Confinement Facility. This was something else that the anti-US groups at the time were able to demagogue to drive anti-US sentiment. They wanted Markle held in a Korean jail, but it was agreed upon in the US-ROK Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that all US military prisoners would be held in US custody until the soldier was convicted. This was to ensure that the servicemember was treated properly, had access to an interpreter, and not put under duress to sign false confessions. This SOFA sticking point would remain a major anti-US issue for many years until the SOFA was changed in the 2000’s where ROK authorities could hold prisoners prior to trial for major crimes like murder.
Though not as prevalent today in South Korea the Markle murder case after the 2002 Armored Vehicle Accident was used prominently by activists back then to push their anti-US agenda. I can remember my unit was responding to a protest in front of Camp Red Cloud back in 2004 and activists had signs with the pictures of crushed bodies of the two little girls from the accident, but also pictures of Ms. Yun’s defaced body. These activists obviously had no shame and were willing to exploit anything to advance their cause.
Here are some thoughts I have on this case. First of all Markle admits to hitting Ms. Yun to the point that she was unconscious and he had to check her pulse. He claims that she was alive after checking the pulse and was groaning. The CID special agent Willie Evan’s testimony directly refutes this claim. Why would the CID agent lie about what Markle told him during the pre-polygraph questioning? Unlike the testimony from Lambert, Special Agent Evans has no motive to lie. How does Markle explain away this testimony? Further more he failed the polygraph in regards to the questions of whether he had sex with Ms. Yun and defaced the body. I don’t put as much stock in the polygraph results, but Special Agent Evan’s testimony is what sealed the deal for me on this case that Markle killed Ms. Yun. The only thing I am not as convinced of is whether he defaced the body since he did not admit to that to Evans; just the polygraph points to him which is not as reliable as the direct witness testimony from Special Agent Evans. Of interest though is that Markle’s former defense attorney Lieutenant Colonel Kevin M. Boyle, said in a 2007 interview that Markle had covered Ms. Yun’s body with washing detergent to destroy evidence:
Both before and since the Kwangju Uprising, an incident seems to occur every decade that further destabilizes the already frail U.S.-ROK alliance. The 7th Infantry Division withdrew in the 1970s, one of two American Army divisions that had been in Korea since the end of the Korean War. The 1980s saw the Kwangju Uprising, and the 1990s brought the murder of Kum E. Yoon, a Korean prostitute, by a 2d Infantry Division (2ID) Soldier. In the first decade of the twenty-first century there was the uproar over the decision to resume the importation of American beef. It is difficult to overstate the deleterious impact on the alliance brought about by the rape and murder of Kum E. Yoon by Private Kenneth Markle. At the time of the crime, Markle was assigned to 2ID and stationed at Camp Casey in Dongducheon. Yoon worked as a “juicy girl” in one of the camptown clubs. On 28 October 1993, Markle raped Yoon and bludgeoned her to death with a soda bottle. Yoon’s landlord discovered her naked, blood-caked body. Her legs had been spread apart, a bottle inserted into her vagina, and an umbrella inserted eleven inches into her rectum. Markle had also covered the body and the entire crime scene with laundry detergent—apparently believing it would act as lye and destroy the evidence. Markle was sentenced to fifteen years in prison by a Korean court. [Military Law Review]
Could have Lambert stumbled on to the scene later that night and saw the dead body and then defaced it? Maybe, but what would have been his motive for doing so? He might have been pissed that Yun was having sex with Markle if he did in fact think of her as his girlfriend, but defacing the body seems like something he would not do because it could implicate him in the murder. This is why I agree with the Korean court’s finding that he probably did deface the body.
Also how narcissistic is Markle that even if he savagely beat a woman unconscious like he claims, that two nights later he would go right back to the same club. It seems to me a normal person would feel remorse and be extremely stressed out over the situation; not go to the same club the girl worked at to go party two days later.
Criticisms of the Trial
During and after the trial, Markle’s parents began a long advocacy campaign to condemn the US military and the US government for its handling of the Markle case. They would make multiple trips to Korea for the trial and the appeals process:
Article from the July 9, 1994 edition of the Stars & Stripes.
The Markle family even tried to stop the military from handing over their son to the Korean authorities after his conviction by appealing to the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court denied their case and Markle was handed over to the Korean authorities to serve his time at the Cheonan Correctional Facility where all USFK prisoners convicted of crimes in Korean courts are held. Despite the criticisms from the family USFK in a highly unusual incidence flew and housed the Markle family in Korea during the trial and paid for his defense attorney.
Article from the February 23, 1993 edition of the Stars & Stripes.
One of the points of contention they had was that Markle signed a confession that was all in Korean without an interpreter. If so this should not have been used as evidence if is was in fact used during the trial. Also the fact that anti-US protesters were allowed in the courtroom to continuously disrupt proceedings should have also not have been allowed. Such protests within the courtroom could have influenced the judges to give into public opinion.
Markle did not do much to help his cause in prison when he was punished for a minor incident he helped to instigate due to an issue with the prison mail that caused him and another prisoner to go into solitary confinement for 57 days.
Article from the December 17, 1995 edition of the Stars & Stripes.
Markle’s Release from Prison
Markle would go on to be quietly released from jail in August 2006 and returned to the US just over a year before his 15 year sentence would have been completed:
SEOUL — A former U.S. soldier imprisoned in South Korea on a murder conviction was released this summer, both South Korean and U.S. authorities confirmed Friday.
Former Pvt. Kenneth L. Markle was supposed to be released in early 2008 but was freed on Aug. 14 with two years and nine months of time left on his sentence, the South Korea Ministry of Justice confirmed Friday.
Markle’s release drew attention last week when a member of Korea’s National Assembly criticized the move, saying Markle had not shown model behavior as a prisoner. On Aug. 15, Markle boarded a plane for the States and was separated from the military, a U.S. Forces Korea spokesman said.
Markle’s case sparked debate and protests in the early 1990s after he was accused of brutally attacking a South Korean woman. [Stars & Stripes]
The quiet release was likely done to preempt any of the anti-US groups from making a scene when Markle was set to be released. If that was plan it work quite well because little was made of Markle’s release at the time in the media. Amazingly after his release Markle resurfaced here on the ROK Drop. The below link to a November 2006 posting has a long drawn out discussion with Markle and a number of his past girlfriends and acquaintances who either defend or condemn him as the murderer:
The comments section in this old posting is probably the most incredible discussion in this site’s history that I recommend everyone read. Markle continued to proclaim his innocence using many of the same claims he used before. However, when I confronted him to post the trial’s transcript for everyone to read he refused to. Being able to read the transcripts would clear up a lot of the speculation and unknown facts discussed previously in this posting. The fact that he does not want to post the transcripts for people like myself to scrutinize further shows in my opinion he has something to hide.
As if the saga of Kenneth Markle could not get any stranger it does. It turns out that someone with the same name and age of Markle was arrested and sentenced to 7 years in jail for abusing his wife back in 2014:
A Lackawanna man who attacked his estranged wife when she arrived at his apartment last Halloween, then held off police for five hours before he agreed to surrender, got the maximum prison sentence this week.
State Supreme Court Justice Deborah A. Haendiges imposed the seven-year term on Kenneth Markle, 42, who had pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.
Before sentencing, Markle promised to become a productive member of society and asked the judge to give him the minimum prison sentence followed by probation.
But the judge told him that the only way she could ensure his wife’s safety was to sentence him to the maximum.
Prosecutors said Markle turned off all the lights in his apartment on Magnolia Street that evening and waited for his wife, then hit her in the head with a baseball bat and choked her. She fought him off and escaped with their child to a neighbor’s houses.
During the police standoff, he boasted through text messages, phone calls and social media that he was the cause of the standoff, which disrupted trick-or-treating on the block, prosecutors said.
Sedita credited Lackawanna police for resolving the standoff peacefully without further harm to anyone. [Buffalo News]
Is it the same Markle I don’t know, but it is highly coincidental that the guy has the same name and is of the same age.
Unlike other major crimes committed in Korea by US servicemembers, the legacy of this particular crime continues to lurk. Every time there is a major GI crime incident in Korea the Markle murder case comes back up for discussion. Due to Markle continuing to proclaim his innocence I hope this posting helps people to make up their own minds in regards to his guilt or innocence. I think it is pretty clear that Private Markle committed the crime he was sentenced and convicted of based on the media reports and second hand information I have received. If Markle would post the transcripts he proclaims would clear him of the crime then maybe I would have a change of opinion. However, he has refused to do so which I take to mean that there is further evidence that Markle does not want the public to read in those transcripts. Overall though this case really should be taken up by one of the true crime shows. It would be interesting to see what the resources from CBS’s 48 Hours or NBC’s Dateline could dig up on this old case. I would not be surprised however if their conclusions would ultimately match what I believe in this case, that Markle was the killer.
Note: You can read more GI Flashbacks articles by clicking on the below link: