A team of 21 South Korean crime scene investigators and medical students last week excavated and buried human remains, caught insects, and examined human skeletons for trauma as part of a training program at UT’s Forensic Anthropology Center (FAC).
The five-day course broadened the medical students’ understanding of the effects of diseases on bones. It also expanded law enforcement personnel’s knowledge of collecting evidence at crime scenes, said Dae-Kyoon Park, professor at Soonchunhyang University in Asan City, South Korea, and the team’s organizer.
The training included forensic entomology, estimating time since death, and determining the age and sex of a skeleton. During the week, the visitors studied bones from UT’s Bass Donated Skeletal Collection and conducted field work at the UT Anthropology Research Facility, commonly known as the Body Farm.
This is the first time a large international group has trained at the FAC, said assistant director Giovanna Vidoli.
The trip materialized through the efforts of Park, whose relationship with UT dates back to 1998 when he first came to study with Richard Jantz, former director of the FAC. Park returned in subsequent years as a visiting scientist in the UT Medical Center’s Department of Pathology. He began bringing medical students to the FAC in 2015.
This year’s group is the first to include both medical students, from Soonchunhyang University, and law enforcement personnel, from the Korean Metropolitan Police Agency.
UT’s skeletal collection, with its examples of various pathologies, gave the medical students an opportunity to examine how diseases can work their way through the body and down to the bone.
“Medical students are used to seeing pathologies in tissue,” Vidoli said. “You want to have a holistic understanding as a medical student. It’s important for them to see how certain pathologies can not only affect the body but leave lasting marks on the skeleton.”
Taehwa Song, professor and trainer at the Korean Police Investigation Academy, attended a workshop at the FAC last year. He found it so impactful that he returned to Korea and recruited seven crime scene investigators from around the country to take part in the training program in Knoxville this year.
Currently in South Korea, law enforcement personnel study pig remains as proxies for humans. The FAC course is the first time they’ve been able to compare human and nonhuman remains. This will expand their knowledge base as they work with crimes back home, Song said.
“It’s very inspiring for future training,” he said.
When Song returns to Korea, he and Park will give a presentation about the training to the head of the Korean police agency, with the goal of bringing even more people to Knoxville.
He hopes to one day open a forensic laboratory similar to UT’s. Longer term, he envisions an official partnership through which UT will send its forensic experts to Korea to conduct workshops and Korea will regularly send law enforcement personnel to Knoxville to train at the center.
Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, firstname.lastname@example.org)