Small town rocked by fraud charges

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Small town rocked by fraud charges

The 3,000 residents of a village on Gadeok Island, Busan, were shocked by charges that the local postmaster, a well-liked woman in her forties, had cheated local housewives and elderly ladies out of billions of won.

According to the Busan police, the postmaster, surnamed Shim, was charged with convincing the residents to hand over 60 million won ($50,000) with promises of high interest rates of up to 50 percent. Since her story first came to light last month, more victims have stepped forward.

“I lost the 20 million won that my mother-in-law entrusted to me for her funeral,” said one villager, surnamed Park.

The police said in a statement, “Since Shim was taken into custody, the residents have been reporting their own cases to get the money back. Many of those affected secretly deposited the money without telling their children.

“The number affected until now is 37, and the money stolen totals approximately 2 billion won.”

Shim was reportedly friendly and social, a popular figure in the village. Her alleged targets were often uneducated middle-aged women who worked in the fields and didn’t have time to visit the post office regularly. Police investigators say that whenever Shim heard news about a household coming into money or starting a new pension, she would appear and try to convince them to deposit it with her. In some instances, when customers came to deposit a large sum at the post office, she would allegedly take them outside and suggest they leave it with her instead. Shim, the police said, reassured her victims by giving them fake bankbooks under their names. One 65-year-old woman surnamed Huh even insisted that the bankbook was real during questioning, police said.

The scheme allegedly began in 2003, when Shim took over her husband’s position of postmaster after he fell ill. The Busan Regional Communication Office said in a statement, “Although we carry moral responsibility, we cannot compensate those affected, because the post office was privately run.”


By Kim Sang-jin [enational@joongang.co.kr]
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