Police arrest Hana Tour office owners for theft

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Police arrest Hana Tour office owners for theft

Police arrested the owner of two Hana Tour travel agency offices on Wednesday for embezzling an estimated 1 billion won ($904,530) from 950 customers.

The 35-year-old owner, surnamed Lim, ran two Hana Tour offices in Paju and Ilsan in Gyeonggi. Hana Tour is one of Korea’s largest and most well-known travel companies. Instead of asking customers to pay for travel products like flights and hotels by making deposits into Hana Tour’s official bank account, Lim directed payments to his personal account. He even offered products at lower fees than usual to attract more sales.

The Paju police began looking into Lim’s case on Nov. 7 after an customer filed a complaint. When Lim went into hiding, police had a warrant issued for his on Nov. 9. Finally caught on Wednesday, Lim is now being investigated by Paju police.

So far, only seven complaints have been filed with Paju police, with total losses valued at 80 million won, while two more with losses valued at 20 million won were filed with Ilsan Dongbu police. More victims are expected to come forward, but many affected customers are turning to Hana Tour’s main office to address the situation instead of going to police.

On Monday, Hana Tour’s headquarters sent a text message to affected customers, assuring them it is looking into the situation and requiring customer cooperation. “We are aware of the incident and is currently assessing the situation with our emergency response team,” the text read. “For affected customers who wish to receive compensation, please be prepared to present documents proving your deposits and reservations of travel services.”

The travel company announced in a statement Wednesday that it is planning to compensate affected customers in full. “Customers who already submitted payment will still be able to go on their trips on the day of planned departure,” it said, “and we will fully compensate all customers who wish to cancel their purchases.”

A source from Hana Tour added, “Though legally speaking, the head office only holds limited responsibility in these kinds of scams, we will make sure that no customer face losses.” It also advised customers next time to confirm whether the recipient is “Hana Tour” before making payments “to prevent these kinds of incidents from occurring in the future.” The company has filed a complaint with the police concerning Lim, and expressed its plans to “file a claim for indemnity.”

Hana Tour has a history of compensating customers in full whenever similar incidents have occurred.

Many customers are still unhappy, however, and have been contacting Hana Tour’s call center for answers. One affected customer complained, “How could Hana Tour call itself the country’s best travel agency when it does such a poor job at managing its retail offices?”

BY JEON ICK-JIN, KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]

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