Police vice squads bond over taking room salon bribes

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Police vice squads bond over taking room salon bribes

The Nonhyeon Police Station of the Gangnam Police Precinct in Seoul manages Nohyeon 1- and 2-dong of Gangnam District, known for nighttime entertainment including room salons, or hostess bars.

There are two vice teams at each station. They have the power to shut the bars down if they are found with any violations, such as hiring teenage hostesses or offering prostitution, and they can inspect the businesses any time. Many room salon owners are intimidated by the vice teams.

Prosecutors presumed that police officers in the Gangnam region started extorting money regularly in the mid-2000s, when room salon business was booming. Prosecutors said that a mid-level police officer typically worked as a manager, receiving money from bar owners and handing it out to his fellow officers every month.

The police officers are transferred to other stations every two years, but some of the officers who have gone through the Nonhyeon station have demanded money even after they were transferred to other stations. “Some police officers have built a mutual help relationship with bar owners and invested money to their bars to earn stable revenues,” a police officer told the JoongAng Ilbo.

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“It’s not a secret that the Nonhyeon officers earn more money than any others, usually at least one more digit in their salary than other officers.”

The prosecutors said that the officers in the two Nonhyeon stations have developed a strong unity. The officers respond to more 112 hotline calls than any other police officers nationwide do and bond over covering up their coworkers’ corruption.

The prosecutors said that the bribes almost disappeared after 2008 when the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office caught some Nonhyeon police officers bribing high-ranking police officers.

At the time, almost 70 percent of the officers under the Gangnam Police Precinct’s jurisdiction were changed and a special inspection team that monitors police officers’ corruptions was developed.

The arrested police officer surnamed Park, who worked at the Nonhyeon No. 2 station, testified that about 50 officers have received about 1.44 billion won ($1.27 million) from room salon owners from 2006 to 2008. There are 40 officers on the vice team of Nonhyeon No. 1 station and 38 officers working at the No. 2 station.

Yesterday, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office secured testimony from officer Park, claiming that he gave about 10 million won to two chief officers, including an officer surnamed Kang from the Nonhyeon No. 1 station.

The prosecution said that Kang retired as the chief investigator of the Sokcho Police Station of the Gangwon Provincial Police Agency in 2009.

The prosecution has also arrested three additional police officers who worked at the Nonhyeon station. The three are suspected of receiving millions of won in bribes from Lee Gyeong-baek, or the so-called “room salon king.”

The prosecutors said that the three are working now working separately at the National Assembly, the Jongno Police Precinct and the Cheongyangni Police Station in Seoul.


By Lee Jeong-bong, Jeong Won-yeob [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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