Gangnam youth gang busted for theft, extortion

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Gangnam youth gang busted for theft, extortion

A group of 35 minors, known as the “Yeoksam Family” among teenagers in the affluent Gangnam District in southern Seoul, was busted by the police Sunday on charges of extorting smartphones and money amounting to nearly 12 million won ($10,704) over 42 occasions starting from December of last year until the middle of April.

The Suseo Police Precinct in Seoul reported Monday that they booked eight suspects without physical detention, while seven suspects will fall under the authority of the juvenile division of the prosecution as they are under the age of 15.

The remaining 20 suspects were released with a warning.

Among the 35 suspects, five were found to have come from wealthy families whose parents are lawyers, doctors or government officials.

Yeoksam is the name of an affluent area in Gangnam District. One of the busted minors was quoted as saying by the Dong-A Ilbo yesterday that the father of one of the gang members is a “court judge,” though the police refused to verify the claim.

The police said the five affluent suspects ran away from their luxurious apartment homes, citing problems at home. The authorities, however, refused to reveal the specific nature of the discord.

Some of the five suspects reportedly testified to the police they ran away to avoid parental beatings or because they were sick of parental control.

The five minors mainly extorted smartphones or money from other victims their age, while their other accomplices from underprivileged families committed theft targeting convenience stores, mostly stealing snacks or cigarettes.

The police reported the group used mobile phone messenger Kakao Talk to decide a location to meet, such as a playground or town park in Suseo District, southern Seoul. The group sold the smartphones to brokers and spent money on entertainment, such as going to karaoke or PC rooms. Considering the nature of the crimes, the Suseo police asked the prosecutors to request an arrest warrant from a court, which the prosecution did.

But the Seoul Central District court declined the request because “all the suspects acknowledged their wrongdoing,” a Suseo police officer involved in the case said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“Statements submitted to the authorities by suspects’ parents pledging that they would take good care of their children also contributed to the warrant denial by the court,” said the officer.

It is also reported the suspects’ parents hired lawyers in an effort to prevent their children from being put behind bars.

“Though none of them ended up behind bars, none seemed to look remorseful about their crimes during questioning,” noted the officer.

“Two of the eight minors have already quit school so they are not returning to school,” said the official. “But the other six booked suspects, some of whom are from affluent families, will go back to school.”

The police stated they will further investigate the case by questioning smartphone brokers who purchased stolen mobile phones from the troubled teenagers to find out if the minors had committed more illegal acts.

By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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