Ring that used middle-aged female mules is target of crackdown
Twenty-one people linked to a drug ring that hired Korean housewives to smuggle methamphetamines from Cambodia have been tracked down and booked, Seoul police announced Wednesday.
The Seoul Seobu Police Precinct in western Seoul said that among the 21 suspects, one was booked on a charge of smuggling meth from Cambodia and four were booked for selling it in Korea. The rest were charged with using the drug.
The five people who allegedly smuggled and sold meth were indicted under physical detention, while the remaining 16 people were indicted without physical detention, said police.
It is not known whether any Cambodians were actually involved.
When a Korea JoongAng Daily reporter called the Seoul Seobu Police Precinct to ask further questions on Wednesday, the precinct said that officers investigating the case were unavailable to immediately respond.
The latest crackdown follows busts of other Koreans with links to a 58-year-old Korean man surnamed Han, known as the “Cambodia drug king” in local media. Seoul police announced in January that they booked 43 people for either smuggling meth from Cambodia, selling it in Korea or taking the drug. Han was indicted for smuggling and selling drugs in Korea and is behind bars awaiting trial.
According to police reports, Han led the ring from Cambodia. He allegedly oversaw the entire process from packaging the drugs, smuggling them to Korea and selling them here. A 46 year-old surnamed Lee was in charge of sales in Korea and a 43-year-old surnamed Choi was specifically in charge of selling them in Seoul and Gyeonggi. Lee and Choi were among the 43 people arrested earlier. Some 12 of the people arrested were middle-aged female couriers.
Police believe Han and his crew smuggled around 6 kilograms (13.2 pounds) of meth that was worth some 3.6 billion won ($3 million) from 2016. Local police managed to confiscate 380.21 grams (13.4 ounces) so far from Lee and Choi, which means the rest has probably been sold already, officers said.
Han’s group allegedly hired Korean housewives as drug mules by offering them free trips to Cambodia, though it wasn’t clear how much they knew about what they were doing when they arrived. Han told police that each woman hid about 100 grams of meth in each side of her bra when returning to Korea, carrying 200 grams in total.
The women were able to evade detection in the airport because the drugs were hidden in “sensitive places,” Han told police.
Police said Han’s Korean partners holed up in three different officetels in Seoul, which they used as their main workplace to divide and package the drugs for their clients.
Police believe Han has more accomplices in Cambodia, and vowed to work with the National Intelligence Service to track them down.
Han’s drug ring first came to light in May 2017 when police arrested a drug user who bought meth from Han’s ring.
BY PARK HAE-LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]