SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — An American charged with murder in the stabbing of a Seoul university student in 1997, who officials say had fled to the U.S., was extradited to South Korea on Wednesday to face a new trial in a case that has generated widespread interest and a local movie.
Arthur Patterson, 35, from California, faces charges of fatally stabbing Cho Choong-pil at a Burger King restaurant in Itaewon, an entertainment district near U.S. military headquarters in Seoul.
"It's not right that they (Cho's family members) 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," Patterson told reporters after arriving from Los Angeles at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.
Patterson's friend, American Edward Lee, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder. An appeals court reduced the sentence to 20 years and later acquitted Lee in a new trial, citing a lack of evidence.
Patterson received 18 months in prison for destroying evidence and possessing a dangerous weapon. He was freed in a special amnesty before finishing his prison term.
Prosecutors then launched a new investigation and barred Patterson from leaving South Korea. However, he fled to the U.S. in 1999, while South Korean authorities were trying to renew a travel ban on him, according to South Korea's Justice Ministry.
In 2011, prosecutors charged Patterson with murder, citing fresh evidence.
Patterson and Lee, both teenagers at the time, accused each other of killing Cho, 22, who was found with multiple stab wounds in the restaurant's bathroom and died on the way to a hospital.
Patterson was in South Korea during time his father was a civilian working for the U.S. military. Calls to extradite Patterson grew after the release of the 2009 movie "The Case of Itaewon Homicide."
A Seoul district court will soon set a trial date. It was not immediately known if Lee will be called to testify, or even his whereabouts, a Justice Ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing office rules.
Crimes involving U.S. military personnel are a long-running source of anti-American sentiments among South Koreans. There are 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.