Thursday, July 2, 2009

High-stakes gambling arrests: Not just for foreigners

I wrote the following story at KoreaBeat back in April because I knew that two months later a group of foreigners in a high-stakes poker game — you know, the kind that are illegal in Korea but which they advertised on Facebook because Koreans can't speak English — would be arrested and I wanted to be able to point out that, despite cries that it's the police picking on the foreigners again, Koreans also get arrested for gambling behind closed doors.

So here it is:
That 연립주택 in our quiet upscale neighborhood was a trippy place sometimes. The woman who lived downstairs began running a high-stakes go-stop operation. The owner of the building — an obese ajumma-going-on-halmŏni whose family you just knew had done something crooked or unethical to keep her so well fed during the Japanese occupation and the war and who thought that yelling at me would make me understand her Korean better — would join the games and end up losing my rent in a few hours.

Anyway, one day when I came home and pushed open the gate, three cops came out of nowhere and physically pushed right by me to rush the first-floor unit and arrest everyone there. Surprisingly, they were not looking for pot-smoking Canadians, yet they were enforcing some law of some kind.

One of the cops rushing by me stopped momentarily and asked me, “Do you live upstairs or downstairs?” “Upstairs,” I told him, and he left me alone.

After bail was settled and they were released and waiting for a court date, I got yelled at for opening the gate. Yeah, it was my fault. ;)

Now if only I could find a way to stereotype all fifty million Koreans on the basis of this story.
Now I don't know how much stock to put in any of Metropolitician's histrionic posts (and I'm not sure if The Marmot does either), but if these guys are really being hauled in front of the cameras for drug crimes when no such evidence has been found, that's over the top and should be protested. [Whoops... on second read, I realized I missed the part where two of the eight arrested tested positive for drugs; not sure the legality of requiring them to do the drug test, though.] But if it's anything else, hey, they broke the law and got in trouble for it, just like Koreans do. 

Now one reason I pointed this out is that already this is being depicted as a foreigner-targeted crime. Vince points out that it's not, but The Ruby Canary is saying "the word is out that the cops troll facebook for things to nail foreign teachers with." 

Metropolitician amps up the hysterics even more:
A few things seem obvious — that the police are primed to turn anything involving foreigners into a “big story” and are directly involved in calling the media down to the station, as well as spinning the story.
Utter bullshit. First, having been involved in drug cases with foreigners that got no media play whatsoever, I can attest that the police are not turning "anything involving foreigners" into a big deal. 

Second, the police don't call the media down to the station. Rather, the certain journalists make rounds to the stations to see what's up and call in stories to see if their higher-ups are interested. Sometimes they are and then they bring in more cameras or even video, if they feel like it and there's nothing else going on. Metropolitician should know this, since he's been "arrested" before (How did that turn out? After all the hubbabaloo, what was the end result?).

Korean authorities have been trawling Korean-language online forums for years looking for actual or potential crimes, so it should be no surprise that some are now focusing on English-language forums such as Facebook. But this does not mean foreigners are being targeted, as certainly they are by no means the only group.

Brian in Chŏllanam-do has some good advice, which was true even before this story went down: Careful what you write on Facebook. Kushibo will add a corollary to this suggestion: Don't post evidence of past illegal activity (drug use, debauchery of certain types, etc.) or plans for future illegal activity (poker games in Korea, etc.). 

UPDATE:
I have blogged the Poker-8's Letter From Birmingham Jail jailhouse interview.

UPDATE 2:
And the Chosun Ilbo has the story, a tale of drugs and gambling. (HT to cm)

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2 comments:

  1. http://forums.eslcafe.com/korea/viewtopic.php?t=159614&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=

    looks to me like anti-english spectrum might have been the ones trying to make it into a big deal.

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  2. I don't know, Rob. I read through much of that last night and it sounds like echo chamber-generated speculation.

    These idiots publicly announced their plan to do illegal activity and they got in trouble for it, just like my downstairs neighbor did. I haven't seen the hard evidence that Anti-English Spectrum has turned into a Minuteman-type entity feeding information to the cops all over Korea. I wouldn't give them that much credit.

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