Warrant for Gangnam’s biggest bully

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Warrant for Gangnam’s biggest bully

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Following the suicide of a bullied middle schooler in Daegu Dec. 20, the issue of bullying and school violence has dominated the national conversation.

The biggest bully in southern Seoul is allegedly a 21-year-old unemployed tough surnamed Lee.

A judo master who stands almost six feet tall and weighs 90 kilograms (198 pounds), Lee was well known through southern Seoul during his high school days for his brute strength.

Schoolmates called him “Daegari,” the moniker for the top fighter in a school. He was talked about in whispers. “Lee’s arm is as thick as a fire extinguisher,” students said. “If you meet his eyes for even three seconds, he will beat you to pulp.” Criminal gangs tried to recruit him.

After graduating, Lee was loathe to leave his reputation behind. He allegedly started a gang to prey on weaker students.

On Tuesday, the Seocho Police requested an arrest warrant for him, saying he extorted cash and valuables from 700 students at 20 different schools in Gangnam District and Seocho District, using threats of violence. All in all, he allegedly extorted goods worth hundreds of millions of won.

Lee has yet to be arrested.

Even with biceps like fire extinguishers, Lee couldn’t operate his business alone and he organized a ring of middle and high-school students to extend his reach, police said, which were controlled by his henchmen.

His closest deputy is allegedly a 20-year-old unemployed man surnamed Goo, police said.

Next comes a neighborhood friend surnamed Kim, 18, who was recruited in 2009.

Kim coordinates the middle and high school ring members, often kids who have dropped out of school.

A 16-year-old middle schooler surnamed Shin is in charge of middle school targets, police said, and two 17-year-old high school dropouts surnamed Hwang and Ahn are in charge of high school targets.

Second deputy Kim keeps the records, police said. He sets the quotas of things he wants brought to him and also the deadlines.

The extortion is basic. The ring members remind the students how scary Lee and Kim are and then say: “If you don’t hand over money or clothes, you’ll pay for it.” Those who refuse are summoned to an abandoned building or park and roughed up, and sometimes beaten with a metal pipe.

“Rather than cash, Lee and company preferred expensive clothes and electronic goods,” police said, “because students don’t carry cash, and if they ask their parents for some, it may arouse suspicions.”

On Tuesday, the police also arrested Kim for ordering teenagers to bully kids out of money and valuables. Goo and five other henchmen were booked without detention. One victimized student told police during their investigation into Lee’s gang that “because of extreme psychological stress, I felt suicide impulses numerous times.”

Police are investigating to see if Lee is linked to any adult gangs. Apparently, adult gangs have been extorting money and goods from youths in other districts, so the police are expanding their investigation throughout Seoul.

“Students known to be good at fighting have criminal organizations reach out to them,” said Ahn Heung-jin, a professor at the Korea Police Investigation Academy. “Violence outside of schools can instigate violence in schools.”


By Lee Jeong-bong [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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