May 31, 1999. Vol. 112 No. 22

Chris Wood
in Vancouver

p. 29

'The Trial from Hell'

A sex case involving young girls is the talk of B.C. legal circles

Even wearing a dark jacket and conservative grey dress decades too old for her, the witness looked every bit as young as she really was. She was only 12 on the night she first met Frank Kim. Testifying earlier this month at Kim's trial in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on 31 mainly sex-related charges, the witness (who because of her age — now 13 — cannot be named) recalled how she met him through a friend in the Vancouver suburb of Delta on the evening of Dec. 31, 1997. Before the sun rose on the new year, according to her testimony, Kim, who turns 26 this week, had introduced her to crack cocaine, taken her to his townhouse in Richmond, and demanded sex. When she refused, "He said, 'If you don't do what I want, I'll kill you, and I'll kill your soul,' I was crying. He just kept saying, 'I'll kill your soul.'" So she complied.

On the streets of Vancouver: graphic evidence and a defendant representing himself
On the streets of Vancouver: graphic evidence and a defendant representing himself
Jeff Vinnick for Maclean's

Among Vancouver lawyers, it has become known as "The Trial From Hell": Regina vs. Frank Kim, with the accused, who has pleaded not guilty, defending himself. The indictment alone makes lurid reading: Kim faces nine counts of buying sex from girls younger than 18, four counts each on separate charges of sexually touching girls under 14, having anal sex with girls under 18, and threatening to use a weapon in committing a sexual assault — as well as other charges including unlawful confinement, uttering threats, assault and possession of a prohibited weapon. Detectives who searched Kim's townhouse after his arrest have described his room as being so littered with used condoms they had to watch where they stepped. Other evidence has included a videotape found in Kim's home, in which he is seen having sex with several young girls.

As graphic as the evidence has been, it is Kim's conduct of his own defence that has turned the seven-week trial into the talk of B.C. legal circles. Kim, who has only a high-school diploma, has directly questioned most of the young witnesses against him — his alleged victims — on points that often seem distantly relevant at best. On one occasion, Kim objected strongly to being forced by Justice Janice Dillon to abandon what he insisted was "a whole line of questioning based on ejaculation" — and whether or not a witness had watched him do it. Dillon has also drawn the line at letting Kim question two witnesses who are not yet 14. She ordered independent lawyer Jeff Ray to conduct those cross-examinations on Kim's behalf, causing Kim to object that having a lawye rat his side was "detrimental" to his case — and Ray to implore a reporter to "make it very clear that I am not acting for him."

Born in Kitchener, Ont., the eldest child of Korean immigrants, Kim finished high school in Ontario in 1990. Since then he seems to have drifted, supported by a generous allowance from his parents, first to Toronto and later to Richmond, where he settled in late 1996. According to testimony at his trial, he fell into a routine of cruising what police call the kiddie-strolls along Vancouver's east Broadway and Kingsway, searching out girls. Several have testified that Kim offered them money or drugs, then took them to his townhouse for sex. Some protested at committing the acts he demanded. They have testified that Kim became threatening and violent, and showed some victims an electronic stun gun or what appeared to be a semiautomatic pistol (in fact, an air-gun replica — both have been entered as evidence).

By late 1997, however, Kim's indiscreet behaviour had begun to attract notice. Late on Jan. 1, 1998, police answering a complaint from a next-door neighbour apprehended four teenagers, aged 12 to 16, seen climbing out one of Kim's townhouse windows while he stood talking to an officer near the door. Two of the four, girls aged 13 and 15, told police they had had sex with Kim. Investigators eventually turned up seven more girls, aged 12 to 16, who were also prepared to testify they had sex with Kim for drugs or money — or from fear. The case is expected to go to the jury sometime in June. If convicted on the most serious charges against him, Kim could face a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. The price his victims will pay for Kim's actions is much harder to calculate.

• Chris Wood in Vancouver

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