The brave Mr. Kwon
Prosecutors yesterday indicted former gangster Kim Tae-chon and another man on charges of blackmailing movie actor Kwon Sang-woo. Mr. Kim apparently threatened Mr. Kwon with a bloodbath if he didn’t keep his promise, and the actor’s former manager, only identified by his family name Baek, forced Mr. Kwon to sign a new contract. This incident is reminiscent of the entertainment world in the days of the Liberal Party, when gangsters ruled. It is also evidence that despite the entertainment industry’s increased sophistication, with agencies adopting advanced management systems, organized crime is still a factor.
The criminal rings take advantage of the weak and extort money from them. The fact that these gangsters own most of the nightclubs where many washed-up stand-up comics or singers perform provides the connection between the entertainment sector and organized crime. According to the Korea Institute of Criminal Justice Policy, one-third of former criminal ring members who are serving prison terms said their groups had been running entertainment-related business at the time of their sentencing. The tie between nightlife joints and organized crime must be severed immediately. Agencies, investors, and producers must also improve transparency in their operations, so that there is no room for gangsters.
This case was made public because Mr. Kwon decided he had had enough and filed a complaint. There have got to be more cases where victims of blackmailing or physical attacks were too scared to report their plights. The authorities must conduct further investigations into the connection between criminal gangs and the local entertainment industry, and must consistently hand out appropriate punishments so that gangsters can no longer operate. Our entertainers have just begun to be successful in foreign markets. Keeping organized crime out of their lives would be a good way to reward them.