S. Korean woman dies after eating live octopus

SEOUL - Keen to try live octopus? You might want to think twice. A woman in South Korea stopped breathing after eating a live octopus, and died 16 days later in hospital.

The case came under media spotlight after her boyfriend - who had bought the octopus -  was subsequently convicted of murder in October and sentenced to life imprisonment by a court that cited, "compelling indirect evidence" that he suffocated Yoon for the insurance money.

The long-running case, fuelled by accusations of police incompetence, has received enormous media and public attention in South Korea.

The 32-year-old man, identified only as Mr. Kim, checked into a motel in Incheon City near Seoul with his girlfriend in April 2010 after buying two live octopuses from a local restaurant.

He later called reception to say his girlfriend, identified by her surname Yoon, had collapsed and stopped breathing after eating one of them. She was taken to hospital but died 16 days later.

Police initially saw the case as an accident and closed the file.

But they were forced to reopen the case five months later after a TV programme highlighted efforts by Yoon's father to have Kim investigated, after discovering his daughter had taken out a life insurance policy just before she died.

The boyfriend was the sole policy beneficiary and collected 200 million won ($190,000).

Kim was subsequently convicted of murder, but he appealed and the conviction was overturned by a higher court in April, after which prosecutors took the case to the Supreme Court.

South Korea's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the acquittal.

"Indirect, circumstantial evidence is insufficient to support the charge that the accused killed the woman by suffocating her", the court said in a statement, upholding an April ruling by an appeals court.

Live octopus is a delicacy in South Korea but is a known choking hazard, since the still-moving suction cups can cause tentacle pieces to stick in a person's throat.

A baby octopus is often consumed whole, while larger varieties are cut up and the still-wriggling tentacles eaten with a splash of sesame oil.

A tentacle was found in Yoon's throat and both her family and police had initially accepted Kim's story that she accidentally choked to death.