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Does South Korea have to extradite the suspect in the Boston College manslaughter case?

Inyoung You (right) could face extradition from South Korea in connection with the suicide of her boyfriend, Alexander Urtula.
Inyoung You (right) could face extradition from South Korea in connection with the suicide of her boyfriend, Alexander Urtula.

There’s an extradition treaty available to authorities if they seek to compel Inyoung You to return to Massachusetts from South Korea to face a felony charge for allegedly driving her boyfriend to die by suicide in May. But the treaty is not airtight.

A Suffolk County grand jury earlier this month indicted You, 21, a former Boston College student, on a charge of involuntary manslaughter for allegedly driving fellow BC student Alexander Urtula to kill himself following a monthslong campaign of extreme verbal, psychological, and physical abuse.

An arraignment date hasn’t been set, and prosecutors haven’t disclosed who’s representing You.

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But if District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office does seek You’s extradition, it could be a lengthy process.

The Justice Department’s website says American prosecutors who “intend to seek the extradition from abroad of an individual to stand trial, to be sentenced, or to serve a sentence in the United States must contact the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.”

A DOJ spokesperson said Tuesday via e-mail that as a matter of policy, the agency “does not publicly comment on specific extradition requests, including the very existence of such a request.”

A spokesman for Rollins said Tuesday that her office had “nothing to add at this point” when asked whether further information was available on whether You plans to come back of her own volition.

In the late 1990s, the United States signed an extradition treaty with the Republic of Korea, the formal name for South Korea. Article III of the treaty, however, says neither country “shall be bound to extradite its own nationals, but the Requested State [South Korea, in this case] shall have the power to extradite such person if, in its discretion, it be deemed proper to do so.”

The office of Yoon Seok Youl, prosecutor general in the Republic of Korea, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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But an analysis of the extradition treaty that was posted to congress.gov says, “Korean law gives the Minister of Justice the discretion to deny extradition if the person sought is a Korean national,” and “the Korean delegation insisted that the discretion to do so be reflected in the Treaty so that the Treaty would be consistent with Korean law.”

According to the analysis, “The Korean delegation assured the U.S. delegation that although the discretion to refuse extradition of nationals was important to it, it did not foresee that that discretion would be used frequently. Similar provisions appear in some other recent U.S. extradition treaties.”

The prosecutor general’s office in South Korea, meanwhile, says on its website that it has extradition treaties with 77 countries, including the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

If you need help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The National Domestic Violence Hotline is at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.