By Jung Min-ho
Three taekwondo athletes in the infamous Seoul nightclub murder case claimed at Thursday's court hearing that they did not intend to kill the victim, who was trying to protect his girlfriend.
The suspects ― all 21-year-olds majoring in taekwondo at college ― were indicted earlier this month on charges of murdering the man in his 20s after he took issue with them for taking his girlfriend by the wrist at a nightclub in Seoul's Gwangjin district on Jan. 1.
Media reports that the suspects ate ice cream after brutally beating the man to death have infuriated many people. One petition calling for justice on the Cheong Wa Dae website has garnered more than 52,000 signatures.
At the first court hearing, the suspects' lawyers claimed they should have been charged with manslaughter, not murder.
"They should have been charged with manslaughter," one lawyer said.
But prosecutors argued that the suspects knew of the risks of their actions and willfully ignored these risks.
"All of them are fourth-degree black belt holders and they knew how precise and powerful they were," a prosecutor said.
"Standing against the wall, the victim was trying to defend his face. They punched him from both sides and kicked his knees; after he fell, they kicked him in the face, which led to a brain hemorrhage, the cause of his death."
The next hearing will be on March 30. The prosecution said it expected to call two witnesses.