Sung Koo Kim is now a free man

Sung Koo Kim is now a free man »Play Video
Sung Koo Kim.

PORTLAND, Ore. - A man convicted of stealing thousands of pairs of women's underwear from college campuses, and whose name was once linked to the high profile Brooke Wilberger case, was released from prison Monday morning.

Sung Koo Kim was convicted in 2006 for the thefts and had been serving time since then.

You might recall that the case was a complicated one because it spanned four counties - Benton, Washington, Yamhill and Multnomah. Kim received sentences in each county and served some of them concurrently.

Although Kim is now free, he will be supervised for the next four years. He will be required to register as a sex offender (for life), complete sex offender treatment and pay restitution. Other conditions of his release include:

  • He cannot enter or be within 1,000 feet of any type of college campus or woman's dormitory housing.
  • No access to computer or Internet.
  • No contact with minors.
  • No frequenting places where minors regularly congregate (schools, day care facilities, playgrounds, etc.).

Kim is staying with his parents in Tigard. His mother told us through the door that the family may talk with us later, but not right now.

A neighbor across the street, Carla Ernster, told us she welcomes Kim home with open arms and knows that he is sorry for his choices.

"He's definitely very sorry that happened - very, very sorry," she said. "I truly don't have a hair on my head that is worried whether he's going to re-offend or steal panties. I really do not believe it."

Steve Berger with Washington County Community Corrections is Kim's parole officer's supervisor. We asked him how Kim will even begin to have a regular life after all that has happened.

"It is very difficult to make that transition, especially when the case is widely broadcasted," Berger said. "But again, we have a great skilled force of probation/parole officers that work with these offenders and work in this business every day. It's what they do."

The Back Story

According to testimony during one of his trials, Kim began stealing women's underwear when he was 17 years old and by the time he was arrested, he had amassed a collection of over 3,400 pairs. Police also found 40,000 pornographic images on his computer that showed women being tortured, mutilated and raped, and there were also images of sex acts involving children.

Prior to his conviction, Kim was also considered a suspect in the 2004 disappearance of 19-year-old Brooke Wilberger. The young woman was last seen at an apartment complex in Corvallis and investigators found Kim in possession of underwear that belonged to another woman who lived there.

The Wilberger case drew national attention and once Kim's name was linked to it, he gained notoriety as a suspect. At one point, his bail was set at $15 million.

In the end, however, while Kim did have a fetish with women's underwear, there was no evidence that could connect him to Wilberger's disappearance and he was no longer considered a suspect.

Investigators then honed in on another man, Joel Courtney, who eventually pleaded guilty to murdering Wilberger. Her body was later found on an abandoned logging road near Corvallis after Courtney gave investigators detailed instructions on where to find the remains. Courtney is serving a life sentence.

Kim's family sued the state, saying they had been traumatized by being linked to the Wilberger case. While Kim's mother admitted that her son was mentally ill, she criticized police, saying they had portrayed her son as a monster.

In 2008, the state paid a $331,000 settlement to the Kim family. At the time, an Oregon Department of Justice spokesman said the state had decided to settle partly because of possible technical errors in a search warrant.