What Happened to Mike?Mightie Mike White
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That is a question people from all over the world have been asking since Mother's Day 2008. From that time until August 2010, Mike's mother, Stephannie White, was unable to openly discuss everything she had learned throughout the course of her own investigation and collection of official documents due to the unique legal barriers in South Korea (for more information, see the appropriate link to the right). Realizing she had collected all the official documents that she could (the rest were barred to her); with a pittance of savings, she fled South Korea to free herself to shout out how her son had been brutally murdered while the US Embassy in Seoul and the State Department looked the other way in favor of securing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with South Korea. Mike is but one of a rapidly growing list of foreign murder victims in South Korea. Below is a summary of Mike's final hours of fear, torture and theft of his life.
It was a long holiday weekend in South Korea, that fateful May of 2008. For South Koreans, the holiday was a celebration of Buddha's Enlightenment, commonly known among the expatriate community as "Buddha's Birthday". It was also Mother's Day weekend for US expats. Current events of the day: Arrest and harrassment of the Busan 9, Arrest of Christopher Neil in Thailand and the following racial discrimination instituted by South Korean Immigration(Stigmatizing the HIV testing process required for visa permits), Anti-US Beef riots, and growing popularity/political influence of Anti-English Spectrum, AES (Korean KKK). The US State Department had NOT issued any warnings to expatriates at that time. The US State department embassy site for Seoulposts only warnings concerning caution in contracts. (It wouldn't be until August of 2009 that the consul would issue slightly more realistic cautionary information)
Mike's Last Night
Mike and his mother had recently moved to a new town, Gyeongsan a suburb of Daegu; friends (another mother & her bilingual daughter) from their previous town had come to visit. The weekend had been busy with badminton, movies, BLT's, scooter rides and lasagna dinner to celebrate. Saturday evening, they had planned to visit the Royal Hawaiian Sauna, an upscale family style sauna in Gyeongsan. Stephannie had been to this sauna the week before and found the women's side to be foreigner friendly. It seemed safe to bring Mike there as well.
Mike White, a healthy teenager, went to a crowded family style sauna with his mother and family friends about 10pm on the eve of Mother's Day. Mike, being the only male in the group, separated from the rest to go to the Men's section (Sauna's are segregated by gender). The sauna was crowed with families who were enjoying bathing/bonding rituals before attending temple festivities over the next two days. There were at least 50 women with children on the women's side. It is safe to assume a near equal number of fathers and a few sons were in the men's section, as this is a family event.
Mike was accosted by teenagers from a Aikido Martial Arts school located across the street from the Royal Hawaiian Sauna just after he arrived in the locker room. Encouraged by sauna staff, Mike was called "Hamburger Boy" and asked if he was American. He was attacked by the teenagers who were then joined by sauna staff as they beat him into unconsciousness.
At 11:00pm, staff called Lee Jeong Seop, Sauna Manager to the men's floor. Someone using the business phone, called 112 (emergency services) and asked "how do you know if someone is dead" the operator replied by asking, "Are their eyes rolled back in their head?" The caller hung up. Sauna staff and the fathers of the teenagers (who were also present) thought that Mike was "already dead" and fearing repercussions for murder, upon the orders of Lee Jeong Seop, decided to cover up the fight by placing Mike's helpless vulnerable body into a shallow pool. Mike floated, so one of the sauna staff stepped into the pool and submerged his body.
Awake now with lungs filled with water, Mike managed to crawl from the shallow pool coughing and retching. On hands and knees, Mike looked about wildly, confused, eyes begging for help. A staff member ran to a supply closet and using a towel, carried a scoop of pool cleaning chemical powder, running back to Mike, he rubbed the chemicals in Mike's hair to 'finish him off'. Staff and patrons stood around as Mike reached out for help, watching him cough and retch himself back into unconsciousness. At 11:28, the second call was made to 112 requesting a "body pick up".
Stephannie and friends were notified at 11:45 that "the boy" was going to the hospital. Stephannie tried calling Mike's cell phone at 11:47, there was no answer. Without rinsing conditioners or facial creams, the three females dressed in their street clothes as fast as they could and were led to a back stairwell that led to a parking lot where an ambulance was waiting. Mike was unconscious in the back with one EMT worker doing chest compressions, but not giving breath. (one of the worst things to do in cases of drowning) The ambulance refused transport to the hospital until a translator was called in, and it was Stephannie's responsibility to find one at midnight on a Saturday night. Stephannie was forced to call Lee In Hui (also spelled Lee Inhee) a shady co-worker to translate.
At the hospital ER, the 'surgeon on staff' would later be discovered to be a DENTIST, yes that's right a DENTIST, who was untrained in extreme lifesaving measures. His response was to provide 3 or 4 chest compressions then declare Mike dead. After checking Mike's eye pupil reaction herself, Stephannie realized Mike was still 'savable'. She also noticed when she began to give chest compressions, the sternum was intact, but his lower right ribs seemed 'off'. C.F. noticed it as well.
While Stephannie & family friend C.F. performed chest compressions & bullying the intubation attendant to continue to provide oxygen, they anxiously watched the oxygen monitor to make sure the number stayed above 90, ensuring Mike was getting enough oxygen to feed his brain. They repeatedly asked Lee Inhui to translate that they were willing and able to pay for extreme measures please would the ER staff do more? Unknown to Stephannie or C.F., Lee Inhui was arranging (per Korean custom) blood money settlement for which Inhui would get up to 20% commission for her 'troubles'. The police, thinking all would be settled, saw no reason to investigate the incident. The ER DENTIST would perform electroshock therapy incorrectly and take two xrays of Mike's chest revealing that his lower right ribs had been broken and lacerated his lung. He was bleeding to death internally. The EMT worker apologized, saying he was not certified in CPR and he was only supposed to pick up a dead body, not work to revive anyone.
By 1:44 am on Mother's Day, the US Embassy would refuse emergency assistance in requesting Mike be transported to a hospital capable of emergency surgery to stop the bleeding and do open heart massage. At 2am, Mike's body would be put into a morgue cold box while still brain alive. From that moment, every conceivable pressure was brought against Mike's mother, to force her to accept blood money and leave South Korea without a police investigation. Against all odds and directly placing herself in danger of assault from AES members and sauna hired thugs, Mike's mother remained in South Korea trying to battle for a criminal investigation through the legal means available to her. This site outlines her struggles, the murders of numerous other foreign nationals and tells the world, just who was Mightie Mike White.
SeoulPodcast aired several interviews with Mike's Mom over the course of the case. Here are the links.
Feb. 2, 2009 interview with sisters of Mathew Sellers (died in police custody) and David Gearson (who beat himself to death as a suicide - official cause of death)
November 5, 2009 with Judy, Bill Kapoun's mother. Bill was the first violent victim of a spate of expat murders during the height of the Anti-US Beef Riots of 2008 in South Korea.