Vigilante paparazzi are just out for the reward

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Vigilante paparazzi are just out for the reward

Last year, the National Emergency Management Agency offered 50,000 won ($44) rewards to citizens who could show photographic proof of emergency exits being blocked in Seoul buildings in order to boost fire safety in the city.

Thanks to the rewards and the ease of taking pictures with smartphones, an army of paparazzi vigilantes arose, giving headaches to building managers.

Reports of infractions are coming in not only from residents or workers in buildings, but total strangers who just want the reward money.

According to the agency, the number of paparazzi reporting infractions in buildings and apartments in southern Seoul has increased more than nine times since the reward was offered. The districts that have the most eager paparazzis are Gangnam, Songpa and Seocho districts.

The agency told the JoongAng Ilbo that there were a total of 1,995 violations reported throughout Seoul, and 20 percent were from those three districts.

The rules say that building owners or managers must keep emergency exits unlocked and that paths to the exits must be clear. When paparazzi submit photos of violations, building owners or managers can be fined 300,000 to 500,000 won.

Last Thursday, a security guard at an apartment building in Daechi-dong, Gangnam District, stopped a group of three from entering the building and checked if they were residents. They weren’t, and they were carrying digital cameras. The guard sent them away. He said that he encounters more than five paparazzi groups per day.

“I’ve seen many young people in their 20s wandering around the apartment complex recently,” the guard told the JoongAng Ilbo “They act like professionals and work in groups. One tries to distract me by asking some questions about the property, and the others try sneaking into the building to take pictures.”

An official of the emergency agency said the most popular hunting ground for the paparazzi was Gyeonggi, but the provincial government ran out of reward money in August.

“Gyeonggi had a total of 2,774 paparazzi reports as of June, which was way beyond their expectations,” the official said.” The photographers then moved into Seoul instead.

The official said several apartment complexes in Jamsil-dong, Daechi-dong and Seocho-dong had paid fines after violations were reported by paparazzi enforcers.


By Song Ji-hye [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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