REVIEW: ‘The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea’ Looks at Seoul’s Notorious Serial Killer

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The Raincoat Killer  - But Why Tho

Netflix has no shortage of true-crime series, and there is a large variety in the genre featuring criminals outside of the U.S. One of these is the recently premiered The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea, which follows the investigation into a serial killer whose case led to changes in Korean law enforcement. Unfortunately, while the docu-series is as compelling as it is horrifying, the coverage of the case feels incomplete at only three episodes. As a result, viewers may be left with more questions, and a quick Google search can answer them, although it makes one wonder why The Raincoat Killer didn’t. The series is directed by John Choi and Rob Sixsmith.

From September 2003 to July 2004, 20 seemingly random murders were committed by Yoo Young-chul. The Raincoat Killer chronicles the hunt for Yoo and the investigation missteps that led to systemic changes being made after the case was closed. The bulk of the interviewees consisted of detectives and police chiefs who were involved in the investigation. However, there are also interviews with journalists, criminal psychologists, and bereaved family members of the victims.

There are moments in The Raincoat Killer that almost echo the editing and framing done in another Netflix true-crime documentary series, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer. A prime example of this is having the killer’s own words written across the screen at intervals. However, The Raincoat Killer makes these choices feel less sensationalist, and the documentary feels empathetic about the victims. A significant reason for this is because the bereaved family members are interviewed and discuss who the victims were as people. A fair majority of their names and faces are not shown to respect the families’ privacy, but even blurred photographs getting screen time creates a feeling that there was great loss here.

Additionally, some family members discuss the government’s failings to compensate and support them, especially considering this case revealed a fair amount of corruption and poor management in the police force. Corrupted police officers were heavily involved in the sex work industry, specifically with pimps who worked with women who were tricked into their profession. Two sex workers are anonymously interviewed to give their perspective, which is a welcome sight given that a vast majority of the documentary is packed with police interviews, many trying to downplay or save face all these years later.

The biggest issue with The Raincoat Killer is that it feels rushed, disjointed, and incomplete. The documentary’s focus is on the “chase,” which is a bit ironic since Yoo was apprehended on pure luck. Granted, there is a fine line to tread in these documentaries, as it would be equally harmful if Yoo were centered to the point of glorification. However, little is discussed about Yoo’s prosecution, his motives, or his background. This is important not to center him or derive pity, but because of the sociological history. There is brief background given on Korea, and how society and its economy was affected by both Japan’s occupation, and the country splitting in two. The economic shift especially led to a rise in crime in major cities. This societal context is huge, and would open broader discussions if leaned into more.

Another glossed-over topic was Yoo’s transition from killing upper-class seniors during home invasions to sex workers in his own home, which is broken into two separate episodes. However, it isn’t until the third where it is briefly mentioned that he transitioned because the home invasions were too risky. It also avoids further discussion on how police tried to pin a crime of a different serial killer onto Yoo to save face. Once again, the documentary almost seems to operate on the assumption that viewers may have read about this case before, otherwise we are stuck following the detectives’ hunches. It isn’t even mentioned why Yoo was referred to as “The Raincoat Killer.” While that can be reasonably inferred, it seemed a bit odd.

While it is definitely an interesting documentary and does a fair job giving a voice to Yoo Young-chul’s victims, overall The Raincoat Killer feels a bit rushed and incomplete. True crime fans who want to explore Netflix’s international offerings definitely should check this one out, but will likely need to do more research for a better picture.

The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea is streaming now on Netflix.


The Raincoat Killer
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

While it is definitely an interesting documentary and does a fair job giving a voice to Yoo Young-chul’s victims, overall The Raincoat Killer feels a bit rushed and incomplete. True crime fans who want to explore Netflix’s international offerings definitely should check this one out, but will likely need to do more research for a better picture.