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The Korea Observer apologises to Airdre Mattner

Screenshot from fundraiser
James Hyams
Written by James Hyams

The Korea Observer and I would like to apologize for publishing an opinion piece (below) about Airdre Mattner, who wants the perpetrators who drugged, abducted and raped her in Seoul last year to face justice.

We were no different from the police or the taxi driver who ignored your desperate cries for help.

Ms Mattner, we deconstructed your statements and scrutinised possible inconsistencies in them, and then published a story, instead of assisting your recovery or shedding light on the treatment of women who are victims of violence.

Ms Mattner, we are sorry and applaud your courage to speak out. We now realize how easy it is for the system to ignore the desperate plight of victims.

You have shown courage, character, tenacity and we are truly sorry that you had this experience. We wholeheartedly apologize to you and our readers for publishing the article.

We hope the rapists are found, prosecuted, and imprisoned for a substantial amount of time.

We believe the culture of violence directed at women in South Korea needs to change as do we.

Our sincere apologies.


The following is the opinion piece that we published on April 9, 2016.

Inconvenient truth about fundraiser to catch rapist

A fundraising campaign to catch an alleged rapist is making headlines in South Korea, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia, and throughout social media but “the facts” are not all true.

Ms Airdre Mattner has raised more than $16,000 to pursue justice and is misleading donors, the public, and media outlets including BBC about some of her story.

In her fundraising campaign and via the media Mattner accuses the police and hospital staff of negligence, forging paperwork, not taking DNA, not being tested for “rape drugs,” and implies the police are not following up to catch the person she says raped her.

These are very serious allegations but they are not entirely true.

DNA evidence was not taken: False!

Screenshot from fundraiser

Screenshot from Mattner’s fundraiser, April 9

Mattner alleges on her fundraiser, published March 15, that “…no DNA evidence was collected from my body.”

In private messages January 23 Mattner informed me that the police collected DNA evidence from her.

Screenshot of cached Facebook conversations. Cached version use due to Mattner blocking journalist.

Screenshot of cached Facebook conversations.

“4 months and the Korean Police have done absolutely nothing. Even though they have physical evidence from my body,” she wrote.

Furthermore, in an email to me the same day, Mattner complained that hospital staff subjected her to awful tests where they collected DNA.

“For 6 hours I was subject to numerous invasive and fucked up treatments and tests, including having two women examine and take evidence from my vagina and anus while my legs were in stirrups and a curtain was in front of me to block my view,” Mattner wrote.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 5.16.58 pmAlso, hospital documents written in Korean, translated by the embassy, specifically state that evidence was taken from the genitals as well as stains and saliva samples “of the offender” taken.

Mattner also tells another radio journalist in Korea that only DNA was taken from her chest, which also contradicts her statement on gofundme.

Screenshot of hospital report.

Screenshot of hospital report.

It should be noted that the translation of the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit, provided by the embassy and filled in at the hospital, states that photos were not taken of any injury, and that evidence was not collected orally.

The same report also stipulates that there was no physical injury sustained in the sexual violence, which might explain why photographs were not taken.

The Korea Herald, which claimed an exclusive on this story, interviewed a medical doctor who gave them an anonymous quote.

“I don’t understand why they did not collect her underwear and failed to provide her with preventative medication for sex-related diseases,” the doctor was quoted as saying.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 5.32.47 pmMattner informed me January 21 via email that she discarded her underwear in a bin at the hotel. She failed to correct the error of The Korea Herald journalist.

It is important to note that Mattner sought assistance from The Korea Observer in January this year.

When checking the veracity of her claims with police, Mattner threatened legal sanctions to limit information exchange and publication citing that her safety was at risk.

The hospital did not test me for “rape drugs”

 The Advertiser in Adelaide, Australia, quotes Mattner stating that she was not tested for rape drugs on March 29.

“It appears the staff at the hospital did not test me for any rape drugs that were in my system even though I had explicitly said to them that I was sure I had been drugged,” Mattner was quoted as saying.

However, paperwork from the hospital obtained before the media circus clearly state that the hospital took blood and urine samples and did tests.

Though it does not specify the types of drugs tested for, she has the medical reports, which clearly outline in English and Korean that blood and urine tests were conducted.

Police recently issued a public statement in response to Mattner’s allegations that contradict hospital reports.

“Police sent the blood and urine samples collected from Ms Mattner to the National Forensic Services for tests. So far no reactions to drugs have been reported,” the police officer in charge of the Yongsan Women and Adolescent unit wrote in a public post on Facebook.

Airdre Mattner insists she was drugged: Unclear

Mattner specifies several times in her fundraiser she had been drugged.

It is possible that she was drugged with GHB or Rohypnol as these drugs can pass through the system within 8 hours according to pharmacists.

The organizer of the pub-crawl that Mattner attended said they left the Zen Bar sometime close to 12:30am and Mattner did not leave with them.

“We individually announce that we are going to leave soon then we gather outside of the bar then we walk together. If some people don’t wanna leave then they stay,” the organizer wrote. “But I don’t remember anybody who was not part of the party. [Mattner] seemed to have fun when I last saw her at zen (and I don’t think she followed us to the next club).”

The organizer also said that they did not see anyone suspicious and Mattner was around her female friends at that time.

Photographs of Mattner at Zen Bar feature her with female friends. One of those friends cannot remember the last time she saw Mattner that evening.

It is possible that Mattner was drugged after her friends left to the next pub which would mean the drugs could have left her system by the time hospital staff tested her the next morning. This is speculation.

Requests for the CCTV footage of Zen Bar were unsuccessful as they store footage for 20 days.

Police action and inaction: some action taken

“The police, to this day, have done no investigations except for collecting CCTV footage from the hotel where the crime happened, however they have since done nothing with this footage,” Mattner alleges in her fundraising campaign.

This claim has some merit but is not entirely accurate. We also do not have all the information about what the police have or have not done.

Mattner’s police contact also failed to respond to our email later January.

What we do know is that the police were aware of the pub-crawl that Mattner was on and should have attempted to narrow it down to the last pub she was seen at by her peers, something I did in 10 minutes by asking the organizer.

The pub-crawl organizer confirmed they were not contacted by police, something that should have been done.

Zen Bar would have provided police the footage and this would have confirmed how Mattner left the pub and who with.

If the police failed to follow up in this area, something we do not know yet, then this is a major oversight and supports Mattner’s conclusion that the police failed to adequately follow up.

However, police reports reveal that Mattner told them the name of the hotel she was taken and that it was “a hotel in the middle of no-where” in Itaewon. Mattner originally informed me she knew the hotel name but could not recall it when asked.

Police then surveyed the area identified by Mattner and secured CCTV footage.  “[Police] said they were doing stakeouts undercover in Itaewon and pursuing two suspects,” Mattner wrote to me January 23.

Whether police actually pursued these suspects is uncertain.

The other complication was that Mattner identified her alleged perpetrator, a Nigerian working at the privately funded British Transport Police, via Facebook after he added her as a friend two days after the pub-crawl.

Mattner’s suspect: possibly innocent

Police pursued the man Mattner identified as the rapist, which turned into a dead end.

“We have reached a tentative conclusion that the photos of the man Ms Mattner identifies as the perpetrator does not match the suspect revealed on the CCTV footage,” the police investigator stated.

Mattner also alleges the police told her that her suspect was not in the country at the time but distrusts this information stating that she needs funds to pursue this man in London, hence the fundraiser.

This man has two Facebook accounts, one with around 40 females as his friends, and the other is his real profile.

Mattner originally admitted to blacking out a number of times after being taken from the Zen Bar.

“…whatever I was drugged with hit me pretty hard. I have terrible amnesia. Things are very patchy. So fucked,” she wrote to me.

Based on the man identified on the CCTV footage as well as Mattner admitting her memory failure, her suspect may not be the perpetrator.

An innocent person’s reputation may get destroyed based on hazy allegations, as the alleged perpetrator is likely to be stood down from his position if he is investigated for rape. It’s not easy for a Nigerian to get legitimate work in London.

Regardless of whether she was drugged, drunk, or any other frame of mind, rape is awful and the actual perpetrator should be pursued and brought before the courts for trial.

Poor police communication: Partially true

Mattner alleges the police failed to keep her adequately informed about her case.

Emails sent back and forth between a female police officer and Mattner reveal there is merit to this claim.

In the officer’s defense, she was acting as a messenger and has very limited English ability.

The officer did not give Mattner an update on the case when Mattner enquired five days after the crime, a week after and then two weeks after.

At this stage Mattner had requested the embassy have statutory power over her case and police resumed contact with the embassy.

The police shared primary documents with Mattner and the embassy but did not go into details of the investigation.

After the media onslaught that followed Mattner’s allegations on gofundme, police published a public letter to Mattner as a way to clarify where some of Mattner’s allegations are false.

However, the English translation of this letter was so appalling that it inflamed readers and hurt the police’s public image.

“You are also claiming that someone took you to a hotel when you were addicted by drug,” the English translation police publicly posted says. “…you stated someone got you drugs and took you to an anonymous hotel.”

The Korea version was polite and said nothing of the sought.

Police should have had their message translated correctly or at least checked by a native-English speaker prior to publication.

An accurate translation of their open letter to Mattner is provided at the end of this article.



Mattner misled the public and media about whether DNA samples were taken.

Blood and urine tests were conducted which included tests for drugs, despite Mattner claiming that they did not.

Mattner’s allegation that police and hospital staff falsified reports has not yet been substantiated.

Mattner has raised more than $16,000 of the hoped for $50,000 she claims will be used to take legal action against the man she is accusing of rape.

Police assert that Mattner’s suspect does not match the suspect revealed on the CCTV footage they collected and the accused was not in South Korea at the time – that is, if one believes the police and immigration.

According publ-crawl organiser police did not interview them or get CCTV footage at Zen Bar, something they should have done.


Statement from Yongsan Police [translated by Euigoo Kang. Cross translated by Alice Kim]

How are you?

I am the police officer heading up the Women and Juveniles Affairs section at Yongsan Police Station, Seoul, Republic of Korea, and am in charge of investigating Ms Airdre’s complaints.

First of all, I would like to offer words of comfort to Ms Airdre Mattner who suffered a horrific experience during her visit to Korea. However, I would also like to advise that there are a few factual anomalies in the story Ms Airdre Mattner outlines on her Gofundme fundraising campaign.

First, on Ms Mattner’s assertion that after the incident “(the hospital) staff did not follow proper Rape Procedures and failed to collect DNA evidence from my body.” Police immediately after the incident (being reported) escorted Ms Mattner to the designated hospital, collected evidence, and obtained DNA evidence of the suspect from Ms Mattner’s body. The latter is being utilised the in investigation including cross checks against data stored in the National Forensic Services.

Second, in relation to Ms Mattner’s insistence that she “…gave detailed descriptions of the incident to police, that she was drugged by someone, and taken to a hotel, but nothing came out of it”: According to the investigations by the officers at Police and Hospital Ms Mattner stated that she was drugged by a man, and may have been taken by him to a hotel room in Itaewon, and provided Police with the name of the hotel, and brief descriptions of the suspect. However, she stated that she could not remember details probably due to the effects of the drugs. Based on information provided by Ms Mattner, police sent the blood and urine samples collected from Ms Mattner to the National Forensic Services for tests. So far no reactions to drugs have been reported, however the investigation is continuing. As per Ms Mattner’s statement, police have identified the motel in Itaewon, and reviewed the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage from the motel as well as secured the photos of the suspect. Ms Mattner nominated a perpetrator, but we have reached a tentative conclusion that the photos of the man Ms Mattner identifies as the perpetrator do not match the suspect revealed on the CCTV footage. Our investigation is ongoing.

Third, in relation to Ms Mattner’s allegation that Police questioned her at times in an insulting manner: police questioned Ms Mattner at a designated hospital. A female police offer took her statements in the presence of her trusted relation (friend?) and an interpreter. The whole statement taking process was recorded on video, and the video is kept by police. Footage demonstrates that there were no insulting questions during the statement taking.

Four, in relation to Ms Mattner’s assertion that “Police promised to appraise her of progress on investigation by email, but there was no communications whatsoever from the Korean Police”: Police were forced to communicate through the Embassy as Ms Mattner left Korea the day after providing her statement. Due to difficulties associated with translation, police had faxed the record of statements Ms Mattner requested via the Embassy, and have informed, more than five times by phone, the Consulate of the progress on the investigation.

Whilst we, the police, strive to provide security and friendly service with all our hearts to all foreigners visiting Republic of Korea as well as we do to Koreans living in the country, we feel sorry for Ms Mattner for having suffered from such a deplorable ordeal. We will enlist all our available resources and efforts so we can apprehend the suspect.

We wish Ms Mattner a good health and fortune. Thank you very much.

Police statement ENDS

About the author

James Hyams

James Hyams

James Hyams juggles several careers including being a journalist and a social worker. James has an avid interest in 'telling it as it is', exposing matters of public interest, and reviving investigative journalism in the new digital era. Testimony to this is his thesis titled: “U.S. Government secrecy and the withering watchdog: Is WikiLeaks the answer?”


  • Typical White male, married to Korean who is pro Korean and hates any criticism.
    You are a disgrace to Australia James and not a feminist or for social justice.
    Your Social work degree was clearly wasted and not deserved.

    You could have done a much better job than attacking this woman as you did.

    • At no point has she clarified any of the massive holes in her story. I’ve heard this story a dozen times and every time the story is told the details change. It wasn’t even until the report from Australia that I’d heard there were now two people not just one.

      • Airdre has thoroughly answered all of the questions raised in this horrible excuse for an article. The inconsistencies with this sad excuse for an article and reasons for apologizing were conveniently left out by the Korea Observer. If you’re curious to see how badly she was slandered, why this apology was issued, and why the case was reopened and has gone to trial, I suggest you visit her blog and read the extended timeline of events. At the very least, read the simplified version. She provides documentation for every single police and hospital screw up along the way. If you take the time to read it, you will see why James Hyams’ attack piece, and the general treatment she has endured, are absolutely appalling.

        I also recommend you watch the 60 Minutes piece, which outlines her case and what she has been through. 60 Minutes is a much more legitimate source of information than James Hyams.
        Part one:
        Part two:

        The BBC piece is also worth a read, again, because the source is legitimate:

        Ifyou are interested in the situation here in Korea on the whole, I also
        highly recommend you have a look at this piece:


        • “She provides documentation for every single police and hospital screw up along the way.”

          You have a very strange definition of evidence. I don’t see any scanned copies of official reports, or anything else. Just a bunch of self-typed things. That’s not evidence. As far as I can tell. It’s extremely slow downloading. I tried to load it in browser, and I got about 7 pages in or something. Trying to download the file directly tells me it’s going to take over 30 minutes at this point and it just keeps going up and up.

          • The first link I provided includes a file that has scanned and documented evidence, and loads of it. There’s enough that the Korean police reopened her case, and this publication apologized for their attack piece. Read the whole document before making such statements…

          • I’d like to , but it’s hosted on some web server from 1991, and and when the estimated time left on the file download went over 1.5 hours, I bailed.

          • Well, if you’re not going to look at it, don’t call into question the statement I made above with comments like, “You have a very strange definition of evidence…” Just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there, and very, very real.

          • I tried to look at it, I simply didn’t have the hours to invest in downloading it. If she wants people to see it, she needs to put it somewhere people can actually see it. This is 2016, it shouldn’t take me 2 hours to download a 30 or 40 mb file.

      • The only reason the story changed every time you heard it is because you didn’t get your information from the source, but from a sad excuse for a journalist who didn’t do any research or bother listening to the

  • Do us a favor James and stop pretending to be a journalist. Because you suck! I hope you are a better social worker than a journalist. A real journalist would have thought this out a little better.

  • Nowhere in your apology does it indicate how she clarified any of the things you called her out on. There are still many inconsistencies and holes in her story. So why are you suddenly apologizing? Your have zero integrity. For once in your life you might have actually been spot on with a story and you suddenly back-track with zero explanation.

  • if you are not part of the solution you are the problem. The hotel security footage clearly showed the faces of the men. You want to truly help… add those pictures to your apology and really help bring those men to justice.

  • On the 50 minutes interview, doesnt it say the rapists were caught only got a slap on the wrist. I watched the 60 minutes interview clip on youtube and in part 2 mid way throught the reporter says the rapists were caught but instead of getting charged with sexual assult, they got charged with sexual harrassment.
    But in this apology it states “We hope the rapists are found, prosecuted, and imprisoned for a substantial amount of time.”
    I’m not trying to be an a## but just trying to know the facts from inconsistancies in your story.
    Maybe I misunderstood the 60minutes interview, maybe you just didnt see the interview, or you must have gotten a lot of pressure from your boss, who watched the 60minutes interview, and threatened to fire you so you wrote a half hearted apology without researching more facts?
    Okay, now Im being an a##.
    Your apology seems genuine. If you want to be an invetigative reporter go back to where ever youre from because Korea is way too messed up to get to the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

  • Why apologize to such attention whoring feminist trash? Most of the allegations regarding poor South Korea response is fabricated. Shes only in this for attention sympathy and money.

  • Most of the pro feminist sjw comments are truly sickening. Truly horrendous that these hatemongers represent majority of mainstream public mentality. This is why I genuinely hope some severe natural cataclysm or WW3 to kill most humans (sparing minority non feminist non sjws) so the world can start over fresh.

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