Is Beyond Evil a True Story?


‘Beyond Evil’ is a South Korean Drama series now streaming on Netflix. The slow burn mystery is about a serial killer who seemingly resurfaces after twenty years, rocking the fictional town of Manyang. The show has been a runaway hit, being nominated for 7 Baeksang Arts Awards, winning 3 of them. ‘Beyond Evil’ features the formidable duo of Shin Ha-Kyun and Yeo Jin-gu in the lead roles as the police officers central to the case, ably supported by an ensemble cast. The show does an excellent job of keeping the viewers constantly guessing, oftentimes knowing only as much as the characters know. The nature of the show might make one wonder if it’s related to any real-life cases. Well, here’s what we found out!

Is Beyond Evil Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Beyond Evil’ is not based on a true story. The idea of hunting a killer down is not a new theme in South Korean films or TV shows, and this particular show is a work of fiction. The director Shim Na-yeon stated that the primary idea behind the show was to depict that there’s evil in everyone. She said, “The main emphasis that I put as the director is that each character in this series can possibly be the evil. It would be interesting (for the audiences) to watch it with this question on their mind: how selfish can a person be?”

The director also talked about Bong Joon-ho’s cult classic ‘Memories of Murder,’ serving as an inspiration for the series. The 2003 thriller became a major success at the box office and was based on a string of murders in Hwaseong, South Korea. Between the years 1986 and 1991, 10 women between the ages of 7 and 71 were raped and murdered. The victims were usually strangled with their own clothing items like pantyhose or socks. The case captured national headlines at the time with many man-hours put in. At one point, the number of suspects that were considered was over 20,000. It wasn’t until 2019 that the killer was identified as Lee Chun-jae.

At the time, Lee was serving a life sentence for raping and murdering his sister-in-law in 1994. His DNA was linked to at least three of those murders. Lee eventually confessed to nine of the murders in addition to five more killings. He also admitted to 19 rapes and 15 attempted rapes between the same time period when the murders happened. But, Lee was not charged with the murders because the statute of limitations on them had expired in 2006. His confession put an end to a decades-long search for the killer. In the process, it also acquitted Yoon Sung-yeo, who was sentenced to life in relation to one of the murders that Lee confessed to.

Image Credit: CNN/Korea Times

Yoon had always maintained his innocence and stated that his confession was coerced. Yoon spent 20 years in prison before being released on parole in 2009. In light of the confession, Yoon was declared an innocent man in a retrial in 2020. There were others who terrorized the residents of South Korea in the past, like Kim Dae-doo, who killed 17 people in 1975, and Yoo Young-chul, who allegedly murdered 20 people in the capital between 2003 and 2004.

While ‘Beyond Evil’ may not be based on a real-life incident, it does feature certain elements rooted in reality. In an interview, Shin Ha-Kyun talked about what drew him to the role. He said, “(When I read the script,) I became more and more curious about Dong-sik… He seems tough, but deep down, he’s actually not. I feel bad about how the direction of his life was predetermined by someone else.” The series shines at keeping the suspense high and casting doubt on pretty much every character over the course of the sixteen episodes, providing multiple layers to each of them. It is also helped by a tremendous background score that adds to the overall atmosphere of the show.

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