SEOUL – South Korea has initiated a court review on whether to extradite a 42-year-old woman facing murder charges from New Zealand, where the bodies of two long-dead children were found in abandoned suitcases in August.
South Korea’s Justice Ministry said it instructed prosecutors on Thursday to apply for the review at the Seoul High Court after determining there was “considerable reason” to believe that the suspect committed the crimes.
If the court rules in favor of her extradition, South Korean Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon would make the final call on whether she’s sent to New Zealand.
Lee Ji-hyeong, an official from the ministry’s international crimes division, said prosecutors will likely apply for the review this week and that the court will have two months to decide on the case.
South Korean police arrested the unidentified woman at a southern port city in September, based on a domestic court warrant issued after New Zealand requested her provisional arrest. New Zealand’s Justice Ministry then submitted a formal request for her extradition to the South Korean ministry.
New Zealand police had said the South Korean warrant for the suspect’s arrest was in connection with two murder charges, and that they have asked South Korean authorities to keep the woman in jail until she is extradited.
The children’s bodies were discovered in August after a New Zealand family bought abandoned goods, including two suitcases, from a storage unit in an online auction. Police said that family had nothing to do with the deaths.
The children were between 5 and 10 years old, had been dead for years, and the suitcases had been in storage in Auckland for at least three or four years, according to police.
South Korean police say the woman was born in South Korea and later moved to New Zealand, where she gained citizenship. She returned to South Korea in 2018, according to immigration records.
South Korean police say it was suspected she could be the mother of the two victims, as her past address in New Zealand was registered to the storage unit where the suitcases were kept.