Gangster’s bash draws cops, too

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Gangster’s bash draws cops, too

A Gangnam gang leader’s 70th birthday party included some uninvited presence - the eyes of some 100 police officers, including SWAT forces.

The celebrations for the gangster, surnamed Lee, took place yesterday evening at Imperial Palace Hotel in Nonhyeon-dong, southern Seoul, hours after police surrounded the area. Some guests were allowed to enter the hotel only after being checked by police officers.

According to police, Lee is a veteran gangster and who led the old Saemaeul gang, a Korean word that translates into “new town.” Lee invited more than 400 guests to his party - including fellow gang leaders Cho Yang-eun, Lee Kang-han and Kim Tae-chon, all of whom were once regarded as powerful leading figures in Korean gangster history.

An officer closely involved in yesterday’s operation explained that police maintained tight control of the area because gangsters today use celebrations such as weddings and 60th and 70th birthday parties as opportunities to forge new alliances.

Unlike in the past, gangs these days don’t use violence to increase their influence.

“The era when gangsters waged war to obtain control of a certain region has come to an end,” the officer said.

“The gangsters team up in groups and launch a joint business instead.”

The mobs have also changed the way they do business. In the past, gangsters ran rings by forcefully taking over or running several adult entertainment establishments.

Police said that since 2008, gangs have extended their scope of operations through mergers and acquisitions.

Gangnam police phoned Lee, the host, a few days before his party and warned him to refrain from throwing gatherings and to cancel the event.

Lee, however, reportedly told police that “it’s just a family business,” and he couldn’t cancel the event because he had already sent out invitations.

Police themselves called three of the invited guests - gang leaders Cho, Kim and Lee - to persuade them not to go to the party. The trio eventually promised they wouldn’t attend.

“Lee owns a bar in Gangnam and he maintains close ties with other gangs,” the police officer said.

“Strict countermeasures need to be addressed to prevent the gangs from showing off their power in the heart of Seoul.”


By Kang In-sik, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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