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  • Writer's pictureValentine Smith

“The Frog Boys” Missing in Action, Lost Boys in the Wilderness

Updated: Jan 27, 2023


Do you remember the case of the five pre-adolescent boys who disappeared together in 1991? If not, then perhaps you remember when, in 2002, they were tragically found murdered. Buried in the soft soil of a small, lonely South Korean Mountain hemmed in and struggling to offer adventure and space to a compressed urban people? It could have been six boys if 9-year-old Kim Tae-ryong had disobeyed his mother who had warned him not to stray too far from home.

I guarantee most of you know nothing of this case, which I did not learn about until 2013, when investigating the disappearance of other pre-adolescent boys around the world.

It is important that these boys are remembered, so let us begin our familiarisation by knowing who they are; U Cheoi-won (13), Jo Ho-yeon (12), Kim Yeong-gyu (11), Park Chan-in (10) and Kim Jong-sik (9). Five boys with mums, dads, siblings, grandparents, other family and mates.

It was a public holiday on 26 March 1991 when the youngsters went on an expedition to nearby Mount Waryon, a short walk from the urban stranglehold of the City of Daegu. Their quest, salamander eggs, to find collect and marvel at as the little dots grew into healthy young creatures, much like them.

But what price the thrill of adventure, if these boys had grown to adulthood they would now be aged between 40 and 44 years, and most likely fathers of similarly aged pre-adolescents. Instead, their little broken bodies lay huddled together and buried below the surface, undiscovered until eleven years later, when a lone acorn gatherer found a little skull as he scratched around on that same quiet spot above the bustling city.

In 1991, when the boys first disappeared several theories surfaced, everything from them being scallywag runaways, to perhaps kidnapped by North Korean agents. Hundreds of thousands of police, army and volunteers searched dams, lakes, forest and mountains. Mount Waryon was searched over 500 times over the subsequent years, and nothing was found.

It would take eleven years to pass before the little lad’s fate was known. The wandering acorn gatherer, who subsequently revealed his identity, found the human remains scattered in a water run-off and made an anonymous telephone call to report his find. The police and forensic officers dug further and unearthed the five little buried bodies huddled together, with some of their clothes reportedly tied in knots with them.

The initial police investigation is alleged to have suggested hypothermia as a probable cause of death. However, a later more detailed forensic examination revealed blunt force trauma to their little skulls and some sign of what appeared to be projectile or bullet holes, with some comment that it was likely caused by an air-rifle.

There are some concerns with the reported investigative hypotheses. There is a fundamental problem with hypothermia, which is how come the boys were buried? Paradoxical undressing is sometimes connected to hypothermia, however the temperature, proximity to urban areas and their being buried would seem to quickly knock hypothermia for a sixer.

One – ‘out-there’ - consideration is the slow transition for South Korea to evolve from the brutal secret human incarcerations of ‘The Brothers’, a covert national operation, which saw scores of children and homeless arbitrarily arrested and transported to a life of human slavery and often death, all sanctioned and authorised by the Government of the day. Many a young lad died under this ruthless mandate until exposed and abolished by a progressive humanitarian Government in the mid 1980’s. However, it is only a few short years from 1985 to 1991 and undoubtedly many indoctrinated into this cruel ideology may have still been lurking in the shadows of change.

Another concern in this case is the statute of limitations for murder in South Korea. In 1991, it was a 15-year limit, which was increased to 25 years in 2007 and finally abolished altogether in 2015. However, another crucial impact on criminal liability is that there was no retrospectivity awarded in any of the changes to the liability, which meant that by 2006 no person found to be responsible for killing the five boys could be prosecuted for murder.

What questions are there to be answered? (General questions could include).

  • What investigative evidence was missed at the time of the initial report in 1991?

  • What forensic and investigative evidence was missed at the time of recovery in 2002?

  • Should a thorough independent review of this case be undertaken?

  • Can any of the missed evidence from 1991 and 2002 be located and collected now?

More specific type of questions could include (the list is likely endless)

  • What sort of air-rifles in Korea in the 1990’s would penetrate a human skull and who owned them in the investigation area?

  • What sort of blunt trauma instruments are likely to have been used and who would likely have them?

There has been a plethora of articles, podcasts, media, documentaries, movies and other reports providing background details on the tragic case of ‘The Frog Boys’, but the focus in this post is on the waste of five young lives and the need for resolution rather than just exposing the details of the case, which can be sourced everywhere on-line.

Five lads are gone but should never be forgotten. The immunity from prosecution imposed by the statute of limitations of the day should not deter police from pursuing the truth in this case, even if they achieve nothing more from a legal perspective than delivering the truth to the coroner. On a far greater scale of a need to know the truth, the sad case of ‘The Frog Boys’ is a never-ending blight on the community, police and the Korean people.


As a matter of pride, justice, honour and human decency, it is incumbent on South Korea to solve this case, or at least know that as a nation of freedom loving people it has done the best it can. It does not matter if criminally no one can be held accountable; the community will deal with that. Foremost the law of decency and honour must be served, as a responsibility to the lives of five little boys and their tortured families who deserve the truth, and for the people of South Korea, who need to know that each one of them is a valued member of a community, a nation and a world.

Note: This article is written on 27 August 2022 by Valentine Smith CEO and Founder of MiPerNet, valentinesmith@mipernet.com

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