A Korean-American family is facing off against a tight-lipped Japanese bureaucracy in a battle to discover the truth about the cause of their son’s death in Tokyo last year. Sung Won, father of Hoon “Scott” Kang, a 19-year-old Korean-American tourist who died in mysterious circumstances in Tokyo’s infamous red light district, Kabukich, travelled to Tokyo last week to continue his fight.
Kang is currently visiting the family’s ancestral home in Korea, where Scott’s ashes were laid to rest, to honor his memory on the anniversary of his death. Family spokesman Ray Wozniak, who accompanied Kang to Tokyo and Korea, said the purpose of their visit was to seek legal representation, but also to raise awareness about the case.
“We want to follow whatever limited options the Japanese legal system offers us to obtain the information we need,” explained Wozniak. “We want the evidence – we want to know how it was that Scott died.”
Scott Kang had earned a scholarship to study business at New York University, but decided to take a year off to work as an English teacher in Wonju to raise money for college and discover his roots. While in Korea he decided to join two fellow teachers, also young Korean-American men, on a week-long holiday in Japan.
The three had been drinking in a hostess bar in Kabukicho on the night of Aug. 25, 2010, when Scott suddenly left at around 10:30 p.m., saying he was going for a walk and would be back in around half an hour.
He never returned.
He was found lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood in the early hours of Aug. 26, 2010, in the sixth-floor stairwell of Collins Building 15, an eight-story warren of small hostess bars and clubs located near Shinjuku City Hall. He remained in a coma for five days before dying of his injuries, his mother by his side, at the Kokuritsu Kokusai Iryo Kenkyu Center in Shinjuku.
The police investigation was officially closed on Feb. 22 and Scott’s death was ruled an accident. But the family was not informed of the fact until July – five months later.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police say they notified the consular section of the American Embassy in Tokyo that the investigation had been closed on Feb. 22, and thought the information would be passed on to the Kang family.
But according to Kang, he received no communication from the U.S. authorities until early July.
Kang says that the failure of the embassy to pass on such critical information shows the embassy is not taking the case seriously.
“I feel the U.S. Embassy acted as if Scott was not a U.S. citizen,” he said. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo was asked to comment repeatedly, but has declined.
Kang believes the failure of the Japanese police to directly inform him about the outcome of their investigation is symptomatic of the way they have approached the case.
“They did not put their heart into their own job, and it felt like they were trying to hide something from my family,” he said.
He also believes they are withholding critical evidence that could prove Scott’s death was not an accident, but that it was murder.
When Kang and Wozniak met with the Shinjuku police last October, they requested a copy of Scott’s autopsy report, but the police refused. They also requested copies of security footage from the building where the death occurred, which was also refused.
The video footage, which was taken from the elevator of Collins Building 15, shows Scott shortly before his death and has become the center of the controversy surrounding the case.
Wozniak says he and Scott’s father viewed the video footage at least 20 times at Shinjuku Police Station and they are convinced the video indicates foul play.
According to Wozniak, the footage shows Scott entering an elevator from the first floor, followed by two men.
He says the Shinjuku police later informed them – after repeated requests – that the two were a large-framed, 44-year-old Filipino tout and entertainer for The Masquerade, a gay bar in the building’s basement, and his shorter, 22-year-old Japanese assistant.
Wozniak says that after the Japanese man leaves the elevator, the Filipino proceeds to threaten Scott, holding both his fists in front of his face and then grabbing his wrist.
Both Scott and the Filipino exit the elevator on the eighth floor.
“Most damning of all, the suspect’s right shoulder moves forward to deliver a rabbit punch to Scott’s midsection,” Wozniak says.
“Scott doubles over, and in several images his face shows him to be in clear and severe pain.”
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police were contacted on a number of occasions for comment on this story. The police declined to answer any questions about their findings relating to the death of Hoon Kang, the security camera footage or his autopsy.
By Simon Scott