US Man to Face Trial for 1997 Murder in S. Korea
Arthur Patterson was then 17, son of US military contractor
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2015 10:47 AM CDT
Arthur Patterson, center, is escorted by South Korean police officers upon his arrival at Incheon International airport in Incheon, South Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015.   (Im Hun-jung/Yonhap via AP)
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(Newser) – An American man is about to face trial in South Korea for a murder he says he didn't commit. Arthur Patterson, 35, was just 17 when he and a Korean-American friend, Edward Lee, challenged each other to kill a man with a pocketknife in 1997, according to prosecutors. Both have admitted to being in the restroom of a Seoul Burger King where college student Cho Choong-pil was found with multiple stab wounds to his neck, but the two friends each blamed the other for the killing, reports the New York Times. In an initial trial, Lee was sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder, while Patterson got 18 months for possessing a dangerous weapon and destroying evidence, reports the AP. He was released in an amnesty in 1998. That same year, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial and Lee was let off for lack of evidence.

Patterson, the son of an American military contractor, returned to the US in 1999 as the main suspect in the killing; he fled while authorities were trying to renew a travel ban that would keep him in the country. Yonhap News reports he was detained in the US and formally indicted for murder in May 2011, two years after a popular movie about Cho's murder led to fresh calls for justice. The AP notes crimes in South Korea linked to the US military are "a long-running source of anti-American sentiments." Upon his arrival at Incheon International Airport yesterday, Patterson expressed sympathy for Cho’s family but denied he committed murder. "It's not right that they have to keep going through this pain over and over and over, but it's not right that I'm here either. I'm still shocked that I'm even here," he said. A trial date hasn’t been set.