Tag Archives: crime

Day care - child abuse

CCTV to Be Required at Day Care Centers in South Korea

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Surveillance cameras will soon become a requirement for all day care centers in South Korea as part of an effort to prevent child abuse, according to Yonhap News Agency.

During a policy meeting on Thursday, South Korean lawmakers decided to pass a bill next month that will allow them to install surveillance cameras at about 45,000 day care centers nationwide. The law is expected to take effect in March.

The decision comes after a series of child abuse cases in Incheon. Last week, a video of a 33-year-old day care teacher physically assaulting a 4-year-old girl for not finish her meal went viral and shocked the nation. A similar case was also caught on camera back in December when another childcare worker flung a 2-year-old boy onto the ground multiple times. Both cases are still under investigation.

“Child abuse is a crime that cannot be tolerated under any circumstances,” said Welfare Minister Moon Hyong-pyo, according to the Korea Herald. “We also acknowledge that the problem is associated with the long working hours of day care workers. We plan to come up with plans to tackle this issue as well.”

Day care center employees work about 9.3 hours a day and their average wage is about 1.3 million won (USD $1,200) a month, according to Yonhap. Due to poor working conditions, it is difficult to recruit qualified people for the job. Local governments, however, are planning to offer financial support for the new policy.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government, for example, pledged up to 2.4 million won for day care centers to install surveillance cameras and plans to send counselors to help child care employees cope with their stress.

In addition to combating child abuse, South Korea’s Welfare Ministry plans to establish an agency for single parents struggling with child support payments in March 2015.

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Photo courtesy of Yonhap

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Two Dead in Las Vegas Murder-Suicide

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

A woman and man died last Thursday evening in an apparent murder-suicide, according to the Las Vegas police.

Jiyeon Lee, 23, and Won Jae Lee, 26, were identified by the Clark County coroner’s office. They were found dead together in their home after a friend came by after not hearing from one of the victims in three days. Officers responded around 5 p.m. to 8900 block of Veneroso Street to investigate.

“It was a shock to pull up to the house and the whole neighborhood was quarantined,” said neighbor Damion Grau. “Nothing like this happens in this neighborhood.”

Police said that the two victims were dating, and it appeared a physical altercation had preceded the shooting in the home’s garage, according to the evidence found inside the home. They believe the woman shot the man in the head and neck before shooting herself in the head.

Photo courtesy of Review Journal

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Serial Robber Targeting Korean Women in L.A.

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han
steve@iamkoream.com

Police are seeking a man suspected of assaulting and robbing four Korean women in Los Angeles between November and December of last year, according to authorities.

The robberies took place between 10:50 p.m. and 4:30 a.m in different apartment buildings in Koreatown and the East Hollywood area. The robber, who appears to be a Latino man around 20 to 30 in age and 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8 in height, followed each of the female victims into an apartment elevator and viciously assaulted them before stealing their purses.

Police said that the suspect sexually battered and punched one victim several times. In a separate instance, he slammed the victim’s head on the ground, kicked her and attacked her with a “sharp object” to the neck.

In addition, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) released a surveillance footage from one of the robberies.

Anyone with information about the robberies is asked to call LAPD’s Olympic Division robbery detectives at (213) 382-9460.

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Featured image courtesy of the LAPD

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Slavery Thrives on South Korean Island Salt Farms

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han
steve@iamkoream.com

It was an ordinary night for Kim Seong-baek in July 2012. He was sleeping in the corner of a subway station in Seoul, South Korea. He had been homeless for over 10 years when a stranger approached him with a job offer that would also provide him with a place to live starting at the crack of the dawn.

Kim, whose court records state that he has a 12-year-old’s social awareness, accepted the no-brainer of an offer.

But within hours, Kim was getting beaten by his boss Hong Jeong-gi in Siniu-do, an island on the southwestern coast of the Korean peninsula. For the next two years, the half-blind and mentally disabled Kim was forced to work 18 hours a day as a salt miner under inhumanely abusive conditions without pay.

Kim later learned that the man he met at the subway station was an illegal job agent who was paid by Hong. For $700, the man reported Kim missing and sent him to Hong who worked him brutally at his sea salt farm. Every time Kim tried to escape, he was rounded up by Hong’s guards.

After two years of trying to escape, Kim finally got his wish when he mailed a letter to his mother in Seoul. His mother then contacted Seo Je-gong, a Seoul police captain, and the two visited the island posing as tourists. They rescued Kim after arresting Hong, who now faces a 3-year prison sentence.

Sinui-do has a longstanding history of exploitation and enslavement of those subject to social vulnerability like Kim. However, not many are as fortunate as Kim, who had family searching for him.

South Korea’s human rights publication CoWalkNews reported in April that the lives of slaves on the island have become something of an open secret. In some cases, the families of the victims knowingly abandon them in Sinui-do after agreeing to get paid by the slave owners to stay quiet. After all, many of the victims are those who have been exiled from their families even before they become slaves.

Kim’s case sparked an intense public attention, which later prompted government investigations which found more than 100 victims similar to Kim, but the Associated Press reported that the nationwide probe has made little difference. Outside of the 50 island farm owners and job brokers who were indicted, thousands of other suspected slave owners have claimed that they have merely provided jobs for the disabled and homeless.

Regardless, the worldwide publicity on Kim’s case has tarnished the reputation of Sinui-do and its population of 18,000. The locals have complained that the alleged slavery was deployed by only a few farm owners on an island, where over half of its population work in the sea salt production industry, and expressed discontent at the media for tainting their home as the “slave island.”

Sinui-do, which produces over 50,000 tons of sea salt, is also a home to about 820 households, along with two elementary schools and a middle school.

“There have been many rape cases in Seoul,” a 52-year-old Sinui-do resident, only identified by his last name Hong, told News1. “So is Seoul now a city of rapists? It’s unjust to call our island an island of slaves.”

But the residents also sympathize with the alleged slaves who have been subject to abuse by their bosses.

“These are people who are neglected and mistreated,” said Hong Chi-guk, a 64-year-old salt farmer in Sinui-do, in an interview with the AP. “What alternative does our society have for them?”

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Photo courtesy of OhMyNews.

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Defector Kills 4 People in China After Fleeing North Korea

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han
steve@iamkoream.com

A North Korean army deserter allegedly shot and killed four elderly residents as well as robbed a villager’s home in the border town of Nanping, China after escaping his country, according to local media reports.

The alleged killings reportedly took place on Dec. 28 at a village near the Tumen River, an area that has been used as an escape route for North Korean defectors for decades. The soldier was later arrested by the Chinese authorities, and it is unlikely he will be repatriated to North Korea given the severity of his crimes.

China is a common route for many North Korean defectors as they often cross into a third country before seeking asylum at the nearest South Korean embassy. The defectors caught by the Chinese authorities are often sent back to North Korea, where they would likely suffer cruel punishments in prison camps.

Since the killings, China has lodged a formal diplomatic complaint with North Korea, according to the country’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

“China’s public security bureau will handle the case according to law,” Hua said, hinting that the army deserter will be prosecuted in China.

The Foreign Ministry gave no additional details about the incident, but South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the suspect injured another Chinese resident of the village in Nanping in addition to killing four in their homes. The soldier reportedly broke into the home of the resident– identified only by his surname Che–ate his food, stole about $16 and wounded the man before making his escape. Reports in China, citing the head of the village, also said that the four people killed were two elderly couples, who lived alone and had children working in South Korea.

In 2013, another North Korean defector killed an elderly Chinese couple in Yanji before stealing $3,210.

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Photo courtesy of AFP

Eric Schneiderman

Scammer Posing as a NYC Social Worker Sentenced to Prison

by JAMES S. KIM

The president of the Korean Social Service Center in New York, who posed as a social worker and made false promises of low-income housing, pleaded guilty in a prison plea yesterday, according to New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman (pictured above).

Ock Chul Ha, 58, of Fort Lee, New Jersey, will serve 1 to 3 years in state prison. The Korean Social Service Center, a not-for-profit organization, will also be closed down. The victims have received restitution judgments in their favor, as well.

Ha was arrested in May after an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Department of Tax and Finance revealed that over the course of three years, he had fraudulently taken approximately $780,000 from 42 people, primarily elderly Korean Americans. Most came to him for advice regarding Medicare or Social security, and he falsely promised them placement in low-income housing in New York’s 421(a) program.

“At a time when more New Yorkers than ever are struggling with the cost of housing, Mr. Ha dangled the promise of an affordable home to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars, ruining lives in the process,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Exploiting insecurity and vulnerability – especially in one’s own community – is despicable, and hopefully this conviction can bring some measure of justice to the victims of Ha’s scheme. This conviction also ensures that Mr. Ha will never again use his social service center as a tool for fraud and deception.”

The attorney general’s felony complaint alleged that Ha “preyed on vulnerable people, who he believed would be least likely to notify law enforcement of his scam,” which included the elderly, widows, immigrants and the disabled, most of whom spoke little English. He would gain their trust using his position as a social worker, then offer the clients an opportunity to obtain housing in New York.

Ha would repeatedly call his victims after the initial proposition and warn them that they would lose their chance of getting an apartment if they did not act quickly. Oftentimes, the attorney general noted, Ha would initially demand $28,500, which led many of his victims to empty bank accounts or borrow from friends or family. Some time later, he would ask for more money for “security deposits” equaling six months of rent and provide his victims with a receipt from the Korean Social Service Center.

The investigation found that Ha did not report any income generated in New York State during the past five years. When a search warrant was issued on March 18, 2014, investigators found that Ha had called his victims to urge them not to cooperate with law enforcement and brought up the prospect of reimbursement as a reward. Despite the promises, several victims reportedly ended up cooperating with law enforcement.

Two of his victims include an electrician, who lost his entire life savings to Ha, and an artist who borrowed money from relatives.

After initially pleading not guilty at his arraignment in May, Ha pleaded yesterday to one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, and Criminal Tax Fraud in the Third Degree. The individuals who assisted Ha are also under investigation as well.

Photo courtesy of EricSchneiderman.com

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‘Serial’ Revisits Murder of Korean American Teen

By SUEVON LEE | @suevlee
suevon@iamkoream.com

The Oxford English Dictionary may have recently released its “Word of the Year,” but the one buzzword on everybody’s lips these days seems to be “Serial.”

For those just hearing about it, Serial is a weekly podcast from the producers of This American Life whose first season has focused on a decade-and-a-half-old murder that took place in Baltimore County, Maryland.

The story centers around the death of Hae Min Lee, who was a senior at Woodlawn High School when she disappeared the afternoon of Jan. 13, 1999. Her body was found a month later in a city park; the 18-year-old had been strangled.

Implicated in the crime was Lee’s fellow classmate and ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who, following a jury trial in Baltimore, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to a life term behind bars, where he remains today in a maximum-security prison.

Journalist Sarah Koenig embarked on a yearlong investigation into the crime after a close family friend to Syed, convinced of his innocence, urged her to revisit the details of the incident, treated by authorities as a closed case.

First airing in early October—and available for streaming and download starting with Episode One—Serial seeks to answer the many questions that have confounded Koenig, the show’s narrator and host, since she began her investigation last year.

The ongoing podcast is a work-in-progress: Koenig continues to report and uncover new facts in real time, with each new hourlong episode airing every Thursday. The compelling part of the program is the conversational style of narration and its pacing. Koenig has said in interviews she doesn’t actually know the truth, whether Syed is guilty or not—in each new installment, she unearths some new detail or revelation that plants new doubts.

Avid listeners of the show—who have helped Serial average 1.26 million downloads per episode and become the fastest iTunes podcast to top 5 million downloads—are invited into Koenig’s repeat telephone conversations with Syed, speaking to her from prison, plus interviews with friends and classmates of Lee and Syed, in addition to the narrator’s personal ruminations about the complex web of allegations the case entails.

While there is no dispute the series has become a national obsession, it’s the program’s treatment and interpretation of its characters’ respective cultures that has touched off a feisty debate in recent days.

Lee’s parents are Korean immigrants while Syed is Pakistani American who was raised in a Muslim household. Described on the podcast as carefree, typical teens, Lee and Syed, we learn, were wrapped up in the usual teenage pursuits such as after-school track practice, homecoming dances, down time with friends, driving to the mall, after-school jobs—and clandestine dating to evade parental notice.

Their ethnic backgrounds are referenced early on, but never dominate the frame, so to speak.

Former Grantland writer and editor turned New York Times Magazine contributor Jay Caspian Kang, in an essay published on The Awl last week, argues that the podcast is problematic because it involves “an immigrant story” told by a white journalist whom Kang argues comes across as “a cultural tourist” in the ultimate example of “white privilege in journalism.”

While Kang writes he is willing to cut the episodic podcast “enough slack to regard it as an experiment in form,” he adds: “I am still disturbed by the thought of Koenig stomping around communities that she clearly does not understand, digging up small, generally inconsequential details about the people inside of them, and subjecting it all to that inimitable This American Life process of tirelessly, and sometimes gleefully, expressing her neuroses over what she has found.”

That piece, and like-minded criticism published elsewhere, led to this rebuttal published by the New York Observer, in which writer Lindsay Beyerstein poses the question, “So, why is there a cottage industry of think pieces dedicated to making us feel guilty about liking Serial?” Beyerstein argues that Koenig as narrator, if anything, subverts listener stereotypes and challenges their assumptions about the minority characters.

Rabia Chaudry, the woman who initially contacted Koenig about Syed’s circumstance, also added her two cents about the podcast’s treatment of race in this Q&A, saying: “The fact that the Serial team is all white means that maybe they won’t quite get some things about Korean culture or our [Muslim] culture, but so what? Then we explain it.”

Whatever your views on this thread of conversation—for most people, Serial is just a compelling, expertly produced true crime narrative–some omitted elements to the story seem hard to ignore. For instance, where is Lee’s family in the story?

Part of that question may have been addressed this week when a person professing to be Hae Min Lee’s younger brother acknowledged the series’ explosive popularity in a Reddit post.

“To you listeners, its another murder mystery, crime drama, another episode of CSI. You weren’t there to see your mom crying every night, having a heartattck when she got the new that the body was found, and going to court almost everyday for a year seeing your mom weeping, crying and fainting,” the post reads. “You don’t know what we went through.”

Nevertheless, the post’s author is honest about his reaction to the podcast. “Although I do not like the fact that SK [Sarah Koenig] picked our story to cover, she is an awesome narrator/writer/investigator,” the post reads.

In the meantime, Syed is appealing his conviction by arguing his trial attorney showed ineffective assistance of counsel. The state’s case against Syed rested mainly on the testimony of a friend who claimed he helped Syed dump Lee’s body in Baltimore’s Leakin Park.

We don’t know whether Serial, which aired its ninth episode Thursday, and plans at least several more episodes before concluding the season, will ever broach the family angle—but we know if it does not, it’s not for apparent lack of effort.

“It’s an upsetting story. A girl was murdered and it’s horrible,” host Koenig told Time in an interview in late October. “Getting people to talk to me about that and be honest with me about that is hard. For a lot of these people, even those not directly involved, this was the defining horror of their lives. It’s hard for them.”

The Baltimore Sun, which initially covered Lee’s murder and Syed’s conviction 15 years ago, circled back to the tragic saga in an Oct. 10 article, recalling that at Syed’s sentencing in 2000, Lee’s mother, Youn Wha Kim, told the court via an interpreter that she had moved to the United States from Korea to provide her children “a decent education and a decent future.”

“‘I would like to forgive Adnan Syed, but as of now, I just don’t know how I could,’” the Sun reported her saying. “‘When I die, my daughter will die with me. As long as I live, my daughter is buried in my heart.’”

To catch up with the beginning of Serial, start here.

Photo courtesy of WBALTV

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K-pop Male Ex-Trainees Reveal Talent Agency’s History of Sexual Abuse

by REERA YOO

On Sept. 18, E News broadcasted a shocking report about an entertainment company, identified only as XX Entertainment, sexually abusing their trainees and K-pop artists.

Former male trainees of the management company in question confessed on camera that they were forced to perform sexual acts and were raped by the company’s CEO.

“When it was a company staff member’s birthday, they rented a room in a pub and had male trainees perform strip shows while female trainees served drinks as they suffered sexual harassment,” said ex-trainee “A.”

After the CEO of XX Entertainment was sentenced with rape and sexual harassment, E News said they were shocked to discover that “two out of five members of an idol group were raped since their early teens.”

When asked why he could not refuse sexual requests, ex-trainee “A” said, “We have to do it no matter what because otherwise the agency will fire us.” He added that even though he left the company after 2 years of sexual abuse, there are still many young trainees who are willing to endure the abuse.

“If we report to the police, then our names will be in the mass media, and we don’t want that,” he concluded.

Another former trainee, identified as “C,” added that underaged trainees are not exempt from sexual harassment. “There are so many young trainees, but people will freely use sexual terms and touch them inappropriately,” he said. “Our cellphones were checked once a day, and our weights and heights were checked once a week. They would also check the girls’ genitals.”

“C” also revealed that aside from trainees, the company also abused their artists. “A close unnie who already debuted in an unpopular girl group got called in by someone [from the company] one day and returned with face injuries. She wanted to commit suicide.”

Although the company and idols’ names remain anonymous, the disturbing news has been stirring up chaos in the K-pop industry. Almost immediately after the E News report released, idol group ZE:A’s leader, Lee Hoo, posted a series of shocking tweets regarding his grievances over his agency, CEO, contract, and the Korean music industry as a whole.

Photo via E News