[Korean History] Bodies of two infants discovered in freezer in Seoul's Seorae Village

In July 2006, a 40-year-old French national residing in Seoul made a macabre discovery at home in his freezer. Before he could store some fish inside, he found the bodies of two infant boys.

Jean-Louis Courjault, an engineer working for a car parts company in Seoul, was home alone in Seorae Village, southern Seoul, after returning from a family holiday in France.

His wife, Veronique Courjault, 39, was still on vacation in France with their two teen sons.

He promptly reported the findings to the South Korean police and willingly provided samples of his own DNA to investigators, unaware of the far-reaching consequences this discovery would entail.

Shocking revelations

Within a week of the dual infanticide report, DNA testing conducted by the National Forensic Service confirmed that the French man was the father of the deceased babies.

However, he had already departed to return to France two days before this discovery to rejoin his wife and two sons. Before leaving South Korea, he had notified the police officials of his intention to return in August.

With the biological mother's identity still in question, the investigators suspected a Filipina housekeeper in connection to the case. However, DNA tests conducted on her cleared her of any involvement in the matter.

As the investigation progressed, the Korean police discovered that the wife had undergone a hysterectomy in 2003, a surgical operation that removes the uterus.

For a series of DNA tests, investigators took samples of her tissue, toothbrush and ear swab. The test results confirmed Mrs. Courjault was the biological mother of the deceased babies, indicating that she had committed the dual infanticides prior to the surgery.

But in August 2006, the French couple held a press conference in Tours, France, disputing the DNA results provided by the Korean authorities and refusing to cooperate with further inquiries from Korean investigators.

The husband underscored the unreliability of the Korean DNA analysis results, saying, "I completely deny the results of the investigation by Korean Police. The babies are not ours,” as reported in the Aug. 24, 2006 edition of The Korea Herald. The wife argued that the hysterectomy she had undergone in Korea was irrelevant to any pregnancy.

Taking the side of the French couple, the French media also expressed doubts over the credibility of South Korea’s forensic investigation.

However, French DNA tests conducted in October 2006 confirmed that they were indeed the biological parents of the deceased babies. This revelation prompted Veronique Courjault to make a shocking and unexpected confession, admitting to the murder of not just two, but three infants.

Chung Hee-sun, former director general of the National Forensic Service, recalled, while appearing on a local TV channel in 2019, that this infanticide case served as a chance for South Korean officials to prove that their skills and expertise were up to global standards.

"After the DNA results in France, the French media, including daily newspaper Le Monde, published official articles admitting their condescension toward South Korean authorities,” Chung said on JTBC TV.

In addition to strangling the two infant boys to death in 2002 and 2003 at their home in Seoul, she had previously committed the murder of another infant in 1999. The body of this infant had been disposed of in the fireplace of her house in France.

"She takes responsibility and asserts that she acted alone," said the French couple's lawyer, Marc Morin, in response to the DNA test results conducted in France, as reported by the French media. She asserted that she had concealed multiple pregnancies from her husband.

A relative said that she had a round figure and always wore loose clothing, emphasizing that there was a slim chance people might have noticed the pregnancies.

After Veronique Courjault's confession in October, over in Seoul, the police officers who were involved in the investigation of the case were awarded with special promotions for their contributions to demonstrating the nation's forensic and investigative capabilities.

The case also led to a meeting of government ministers from both nations in a bid to bolster collaboration in criminal and judicial affairs in January 2007.

Officials from the Ministry of Justice in South Korea stated, "The meeting established the groundwork for uncovering the truth of the Seorae Village incident, and the Ministries of Justice from both countries will engage in more comprehensive future cooperation."