Ex-soldier ignores DNA, calls inmate ‘father’
SEOUL — A former soldier says he knows that a man on death row is his father, despite a DNA test to the contrary.
Stars and Stripes earlier this week published a story about former Staff Sgt. Aaron Bates, who was in Seoul to attend the premiere of “My Father,” a movie based on his relationship with the death-row inmate.
The newspaper was then alerted about a question of paternity based on DNA evidence.
Bates, however, maintained in a follow-up interview Wednesday that “no DNA test is going to prove my love for my father. All the hard facts outweigh the DNA testing.”
The prisoner, Sung Nak-ju, was sentenced to death for the 1994 killings of his 49-year-old girlfriend and her 14-year-old daughter.
Bates, who was adopted as a 5-year-old from a Gwangju orphanage by an affluent American couple, began looking for his biological parents while stationed at Camp Humphreys as a medic in 1996.
He found nothing until 1998, when a prison dermatologist spoke with Sung about Bates.
The doctor called another dermatologist in Chicago, who phoned Bates’ adoptive parents. Sung and Bates began corresponding in early 1999.
In 2001, Bates submitted a hair sample wrapped in a tissue for DNA testing. The test results indicated that Sung was not Bates’ father.
However, Bates points to pictures Sung had of him as a 6-month-old that only the orphanage and his adoptive parents had. Sung had additional photos and knew Bates’ birth date, Bates said.
“A young picture of him looks like a spitting image, (although) he did say I looked more like mom,” Bates said. Bates’ birth mother died from an illness when he was about 7 months old, he says. The matter of DNA test results is included in the movie.
Bates, in promotional interviews with South Korean media, maintains that Sung is his father.
“[The DNA test] is not a big issue for me,” Bates said. “I don’t want to put despair back into the man’s life. He has lot of peace and serenity. If I told him he wasn’t my father, I’ll have lost … years of what I’ve been doing.”