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  • TV America’s Most Wanted on unsolved questionable death of an American in Shinjuku Aug 2010. Any press in Japan?

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 11th, 2010

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    Hi Blog. In line with yesterday’s theme of foreign crime (in this case, crimes perpetrated against the foreign), has anyone heard of this case of a questionable death (ruled by police as an accident) of an American in Shinjuku last August in the domestic media? If the reverse were true (a US tourist killing a Japanese), you bet we’d hear about it, and have all manner of people screaming about how tourists are now part of the alleged foreign crime wave we must protect Japanese from.

    I hope I don’t have to make the argument again that there is a double standard of justice and attention depending on whether the perp or the victim is Japanese or not, like I did in the Japan Times March 2009. Arudou Debito

    Unknown Hoon Scott Kang Killer
    Hoon Kang was in a coma for several days after cops say he accidentally fell.
    America’s Most Wanted Website, courtesy of BG

    The Call

    Like any concerned parent, Sung Won Kang was a little worried about his teenage son who would be vacationing in Japan, especially since his son’s cell phone didn’t have international service to call home.

    Nineteen-year-old Hoon “Scott” Kang of Buford, Ga., was teaching English in South Korea. He told his father that he and two fellow teachers had exciting vacation plans in Tokyo. As the trio prepared to leave for their trip, Hoon called his dad from the airport in Seoul and reassured his father that everything would be fine. He would call home if he needed anything.

    A few days later, Sung Won did get a phone call: His son was missing.

    Police say that the next time anyone saw Scott, he was found lying in an emergency stairwell of 15 Collins Building, a high rise that houses several clubs.

    Big Plans, Bright Future

    Sung Won Kang and his wife, Geyeon, immigrated from Seoul in 1993. Like many other Korean immigrants, they gave their kids American names: Scott and Rebecca. Sung Won and Geyeon worked hard to give their kids a wonderful life. They were all proud to be living as Americans, but Scott was exceptionally patriotic. In high school, he joined ROTC and wanted to enlist in the Army one day to help serve his country.

    In 2009, Scott graduated from North Gwinnett High School and was on track to realize his dream of becoming a lawyer and politician. Scott received a scholarship from ROTC that allowed him to enter the international business program at Fordham University in New York. Since his scholarship only covered his tuition, Scott still needed money for his food and lodging, and times were tight. That’s when his father suggested that Scott apply for an English teaching job in South Korea, where instructors from the United States were in high demand. Scott decided it was a great idea – not only would he be able to earn money for school, he could better learn his parents’ native tongue. He decided to take a year off from college and to be sure he saved his money, Scott would send his checks home to his dad. Everything was going well, and Sung Won couldn’t be prouder of his eldest son. In August, when Scott decided to take some time off, it was supposed to be a week of fun and exploration.

    The Vacation

    On Aug. 24, Scott and his friends spent their first day in Tokyo taking in the scenery. That night, they went to the Shinjuku District, a place known for its rowdy nightlife. Scott broke off from the group around 10:30 p.m. to wander on his own. When Scott’s dad got the phone call from Japan, his son was missing, after he didn’t return to his friends.

    Later that same day, Minsook Lee, a guardian of one of the men who was with Scott that night, called Sung Won to report that they found Scott — he was in a local hospital, fighting for his life. Police say he was hospitalized after someone discovered Scott, lying in an emergency stairwell of 15 Collins Building, a high-rise that houses several clubs. He was unconscious and blood was trickling from his left ear.

    While Scott’s parents rushed to Tokyo, Minsook instinctively took photos and video of Scott in the hospital. By the time Scott’s parents arrived, he had been in a coma for several days. He passed away the following day.

    When Scott’s father met with Japanese police, he says investigators showed him surveillance video taken inside an elevator, in the same building where Scott was found. According to Scott’s dad, the video shows Kang in the elevator shortly after 11 p.m. with a man in a black hat. Scott apparently made a gesture with both hands out, as if to say “I don’t have anything,” and the man appeared to punch Kang in the stomach, his father told AMW. Scott was found around 1:30 a.m. in the stairwell between the sixth and seventh floors. Sung Won believed his son was the victim of an attempted robbery, but Japanese police reached a different conclusion.

    Sung Won tells AMW that Japanese police ruled it was an accidental death — that Scott had too much to drink that night and fell down two flights of stairs. Scott’s family and friends didn’t accept that explanation and called the U.S. Embassy, pressing for more solid answers. Eventually, investigators reopened the case.

    AMW decided to take the case as well, and John Walsh and his team traveled to Tokyo to shoot the story. Members of the Kang family’s church raised money to send Sung Won to Japan, and he participated in the shoot. During that visit, Sung Won was able to meet with Japanese police again, and this time, they had a different assessment. Cops apparently believe that the two men were shaking hands in the elevator. They recently identified the man from the surveillance video as an employee of a bar in the same building, but cops haven’t charged him with any crime.

    The Kang family is aching for answers half a world away. Family and friends are now trying to help garner support, encouraging people to reach out to their state representatives about the suspicious death of Hoon “Scott” Kang. With America’s Most Wanted and its global reach, they’re hoping to get some justice. If you can help, call our Hotline 1-800-CRIME-TV. Remember, you can remain anonymous.

    Television Airings:
    »November 6, 2010

    12 Responses to “TV America’s Most Wanted on unsolved questionable death of an American in Shinjuku Aug 2010. Any press in Japan?”

    1. feitclub Says:

      I doubt this is a case of discrimination. I think the J-cops as a rule prefer to disregard any case where they have no leads as an “accident.” Keeps their numbers up. Kudos to AMW for applying some pressure to get them off their asses.

    2. Gilesdesign Says:

      I sent this story to your email about a month ago…cant remember which newspaper reported it.

      — Under the mail you provided here at Okay, if so, will track it down. Sorry and thanks.

    3. Gilesdesign Says:

      Atlanta Journal Constitution
      September 7th 2010
      “Buford man dies in Japan; family wants answers”

      You might have missed it because the link does not work properly, sorry…I just tried it now and did not work…. but comes up if you search “buford man dies japan” in their archives search of

      Strange that the news is so hard to find even this far on into the case, ajc didn’t seem too shy about suggesting it was a police cover up either. Maybe that also means a blanket ban on press coverage in Japan?
      Cannot have Japanese police found accountable, can we.


      GWINNETT COUNTY NEWS 5:04 p.m. Tuesday, September 7, 2010
      Buford man dies in Japan; family wants answers
      By Andria Simmons
      The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

      A Buford family is struggling to unravel the mystery of their son’s death in another country 6,800 miles away.

      Hoon “Scott” Kang, 20, was vacationing in Tokyo with friends when he was found lying in an emergency stairwell with blood trickling from his left ear early on Aug. 27. He died three days later in a hospital, never having regained consciousness.

      Japanese authorities initially concluded that he fell down the stairs accidentally. Kang’s family believes he was a victim of something much more sinister. They learned Monday that Japanese police had reopened the investigation, at the prodding of the U.S. Embassy in Japan.

      “They tried to say it was an accident,” said his father, Sung Kang, 48, reached by phone Tuesday in South Korea, where he is visiting relatives. “But when I visited the police office and I saw the pictures of the accident area, I knew this was not an accident.”

      Police showed the Kang family a surveillance video from an elevator in the building that housed the restaurant where Scott Kang had stopped. The video shows Kang in the elevator shortly after 11 p.m. with a man in a black hat. Kang gestures with both hands out, as if to say “I don’t have anything,” and the man appears to punch Kang in the stomach, his father said.

      His body was found around 1:30 a.m. in the stairwell between the sixth and seventh floors. He remained in a coma due to severe head trauma until his death Aug. 30.

      A representative of the U.S. Embassy in Japan declined to talk about the case except to say it is the subject of an ongoing investigation.

      Kang, a 2009 graduate of North Gwinnett High School, was on track to realize his dream of becoming a lawyer and politician. His father brought the family to the United States on a green card about 18 years ago, and they earned American citizenship 18 months ago. Kang was midway through his freshman year in the international business program at New York University with a scholarship covering tuition.

      But Kang needed money for his food and lodging, so he decided in February to take a year off from college to teach English in South Korea. Kang figured he could earn money for college and learn his parents’ native tongue.

      While on a hiatus from teaching in South Korea in late August, Kang traveled with two friends to Japan for a weeklong getaway.

      Kang’s parents flew to Japan after their son was hospitalized and pieced together some details about what happened there.

      Kang and his friends stopped at a restaurant for $2 sake after their first day exploring Tokyo, Kang’s family said. His friends wanted to order food and keep drinking, but Kang didn’t want to spend any more money. He left around 10:30 p.m. and told his friends he would return in half an hour to walk back to the hotel with them.

      Kang never returned.

      Family members and friends believe he may have been the victim of a robbery attempt.

      “He was a small kind of nerdy-looking kid, and he would’ve made an inviting target,” said Ray Wosniak, a family friend who has traveled extensively, but was not on the trip with Kang. “This is in a district near the bullet train station which is a notoriously rough neighborhood.”

      Minsook Lee, one of Scott Kang’s friends in Japan, said there was a massive amount of blood on the wall of the stairwell that was later cleaned up.

      “I believe that there is a lot to be explained about this innocent young man who simply visited Japan for an adventure and ended up dying within three days,” Lee said in an e-mail. “I strongly feel that such an incident, making the homicide case look like an accident, should never be repeated again.”

      Wosniak, who teaches Sunday school at Salt and Light Presbyterian Church in Buford, where the Kangs are members, said Scott Kang’s death has rattled the Korean-American community. The Kangs believe the Japanese authorities discriminated against them by not taking the case seriously. An article about Kang’s death recently appeared in the Chosun Daily News, a Korean newspaper in Duluth.

      Pastor Hang Soon Park of the Salt and Light Presbyterian Church said the congregation has held prayer vigils for the family. Kang’s parents plan to return home from South Korea next week. Meanwhile, their qualms about the Japanese investigation linger.

      “I don’t know if they will try their best. Now I am just watching,” Sung Kang said.

    4. eyeinthesky Says:

      I had the same thing happen to me, but it was done by an african guy in roppongi. He demanded I pay something like 9juman yen before I left the club, and I snatched my credit card from the Japanese at the desk and hauled. The african guy punched me in the head, I went to the koban on the corner, the J cop did nothing and wanted nothing to do with it. After loosing the african dude in the crowd, I hauled back to the train.
      As far as the embassy goes, I wouldnt expect anything. Ive always said you could be dying in front of the embassy with passport in hand, they wouldnt even come out to see what was going on and direct it to the J police. Stay away from roppongi and bad joints in Japan.

    5. Common sense Says:

      I saw that AMW program showing the host in Tokyo and that police basically said he died by falling downstairs when actually the have elevator video of him being robbed in an elevator and some kind of scuffle going on, Shame on the tokyo police for not showing the video and not investigating a murder.

    6. Getchan Says:

      Read this story:

      This isn’t unique to NJ. In June, a 68-old man was severely injured in a hit-and-run in Uonuma City, Niigata. The police ruled, that the man must have fallen all by himself (and broken his hip in the process…) and failed to conduct the necessary investigations. Seventeen days later, the victim’s wife presented evidence of a car hitting the man on a surveillance tape from a nearby “konbini”. Only then police started working on the case.
      Methinks police are just too busy issuing parking tickets (and even that is being delegated to private firms!).

      And Embassies aren’t worth their staff’s pay, unless the victim is a big shot…

    7. carl Says:

      “Sung Won was able to meet with Japanese police again, and this time, they had a different assessment. Cops apparently believe that the two men were shaking hands in the elevator.”

      You gotta be kidding me! They can’t tell the difference between a friggin’ handshake and a blow to the stomach? That’s just ridiculous.

    8. Justin Says:

      Never attribute to racism what can be explained through simple laziness and incompetence.

    9. Ben Says:

      I have never had problems in this part of Shinjuku, the building it happened in is near Korean Town. However I have been told at night by my Asian friends who have been tricked into some of these clubs hoping to “meet” Japanese girls, costing them a few 10,000 yen each.

      I hope the father gets some answers, however as we know already too many times, this will prob not happen…

    10. Justin Says:

      I heard about this case from my family back home in the States. The dearth of coverage here in Japan is shocking. The family has set up a website where you can submit an email complaint to the embassy. I’m not sure this will result in anything but it’s a start.

      Where are The Japan Times and the other English language newspapers on this? It would be great if you could push this in the media. Scott’s family deserves some closure.

    11. debito Says:

      Japan Times investigates Scott Kang suspected murder:

      Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010

      Dead American’s kin seek justice
      Answers elude in student’s shady death in Kabukicho

    12. newbiefront Says:

      Strange how I never see this kind of news in the U.S. Embassys warden newsletter email I been getting.

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