U.S. to help round up Korean fugitives

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U.S. to help round up Korean fugitives

The Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office of Korea and the Department of Homeland Security of the United States signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday in Seoul to step up faster extradition of Korean fugitives in the U.S.

According to the MOU, Korean prosecutors will exchange real-time information about the location of criminal defendants with Homeland Security’s Studies and Analysis Institute. The Homeland Security Department can arrest them.

If fugitives are found to have broken U.S. immigration law, they will be deprived of their passports immediately and expatriated without a trial in the U.S., the prosecutors’ office said.

“The MOU is very meaningful because international cooperation has become increasingly important to take effective measures against transnational illicit activities,” said Kim Joon-gyu, the prosecutor general of Korea.

Under the previous extradition treaty, Korean prosecutors had to get various approvals to request repatriation from the U.S., and defendants had to go through trials in the U.S. before extradition, which took months or even years.

“Previous extradition requests took a long time, raising questions about the system’s effectiveness,” said Hwang Cheol-gyu, chief of the International Cooperation Center at the prosecutors’ office.

The two countries promised to cooperate in such areas as international money laundering, tracking criminal gains and illegalities related to the defense industry, prosecutors said.

The first case to come under the MOU will be that of Jeon Yoon-soo, chairman of Sungwon Corporation, who was charged with delaying paying wages of 120 million won ($10 million) to workers.

Jeon will be repatriated to Korea sometime soon, U.S. authorities have said.

Besides Jeon, Korean prosecutors are targeting three more fugitives in the U.S.: Steven Lee, the former head of Lone Star Fund, for alleged tax evasion; Arthur Patterson, a suspect in a murder at a hamburger restaurant in Itaewon 12 years ago; and Ju Gwan-yeop, an owner of Row Technology, suspected of taking unfair profits in the defense industry.

By Jeon Jin-bae, Choe Sun-uk [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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