Government measures or police actions against criminal gangs involved in extortion and money lending; protection available to citizens from these criminals [KOR39177.E]

Several articles report on police efforts to "crack down" on organized crime in South Korea (UPI 6 Dec. 2001; Yonhap 8 Jan. 2002; ibid. 5 Dec. 2001; ibid. 3 Dec. 2001; ibid. 1 Dec. 2001). According to an 8 January 2002 Yonhap article, the Seoul District Prosecutor's Office had announced plans for a "tougher or at least safer response to organized crimes." Reportedly the Office planned to secure the right for investigators to carry concealed weapons and to equip themselves with such tools as infrared telescopes and wiretapping devices (ibid.).

An earlier article reported that the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office had issued a notice announcing a "crackdown" on "organized gangsters" called "jopok," described as South Korea's "version of the Mafia" (UPI 6 Dec. 2001). According to reports, the prosecution announced that it intended to introduce legislation that would allow the publication of the identities of convicted gang members (ibid.; Yonhap 3 Dec. 2001), the introduction of probationary periods following the release of gang members, the broadcast of photographs of wanted gang bosses, and the introduction of punishments for both the use of amputated fingers as an intimidation technique and for displaying a tattoo as an indication of gang membership (ibid.).

According to a 1 December 2001 Yonhap article, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) had launched a "special investigation squad to crack down on gang-related crime." The squad, which was reported to be composed of 36 investigators from 31 police stations in Seoul, was formed in order to collect information on newly formed gangs and gang bosses and was to monitor 294 people with connections to 26 rings (ibid.).

A later article reported that the police would provide "full protection" to any person who provided information about the activities of gangs and would also provide rewards as high as 5 million won, or US$3,900 (ibid. 5 Dec. 2001). Another article stated that "under South Korean law, the head of a criminal organization could face the death penalty, life in jail or a prison term of over 10 years," and further stated that the punishment for "simply joining a criminal organization" was a prison term of two years or more (ibid. 5 Oct. 2001).

A 8 April 2002 Yonhap article reported that, during the first quarter of the year, police had apprehended "562 organized crime ring members and 8,778 members of youth gangs, arresting 384 and 1,121 respectively."

A May 2002 article reported that, as part of a 45-day crackdown that had begun on 1 April 2002, police had arrested 353 gang members, including 207 members of 16 new crime organizations (ibid. 20 May 2002). According to the article, 43.4 per cent of the crimes committed were related to extortion from bars and hotels (ibid.).

A 26 April 2002 article reported that Korean police had arrested three "Chinese gangsters" and were "trailing" 10 others who were suspected of stabbing two Korean-Chinese men (Korea Times). Reportedly, those involved in the stabbing belonged to one of China's largest "crime syndicates," Heuksahoe, which police estimate has as many as 90 gangsters from four "offshoots" operating in South Korea (ibid.). According to the article, the gang derives the majority of its money from illegal gambling and the extortion of wages from Korean-Chinese (ibid.).

For further information on organized crime in Korea, please refer to KOR36330.E of 10 April 2001.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Korea Times [Seoul]. 26 April 2002. "Chinese Gangsters Emerge as Threats to World Cup." (NEXIS)

United Press International (UPI). 6 December 2001. "S. Korea Fights Organized Gangsters." (NEXIS)

Yonhap [Seoul]. 20 May 2002. "Police Arrest 363 Gang Members During Crackdown." (FBIS-EAS-2002-0520 20 May 2002/WNC)

_____. 8 April 2002. "Drug, Arson Crimes Rise Sharply in First Quarter." (FBIS-EAS-2002-0408 8 Apr. 2002/WNC)

_____. 8 January 2002. "Prosecutors to Legalize Concealed Weapons for Investigators." (FBIS-EAS-2002-0108 8 Jan. 2002/WNC)

_____. 5 December 2001. "Seoul Police to Crack Down on Organized Crime." (FBIS-EAS-2001-1205 5 Dec. 2001/WNC)

_____. 3 December 2001. "Prosecution to Crack Down on Organized Gangs." (FBIS-EAS-2001-1203 3 Dec. 2001/WNC)

_____. 1 December 2001. "Seoul Police Launch Gang Investigation Squad." (FBIS-EAS-2001-1201 1 Dec. 2001/WNC)

_____. 5 October 2001. "National Police Agency Vows to Crackdown on Organized Crime." (FBIS-EAS-2001-1005 5 Oct. 2001/WNC)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases


Internet sites including:


The Korea Herald

The Korea Times

World News Connection

Search engine: