Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Recent drug busts involving English teachers

There have been several drug smuggling stories and arrest stories this month, some involving English teachers. The most recent was on June 24, when YTN reported on it in an article titled "53 including singer and composer caught for pot smoking."
In a massive bust, police have caught over 50 people involved in distributing and smoking marijuana, including singers, composers, and English teachers.

Among four people who were arrested was a 30 year old Mr. Lee, an LA gang member who smuggled and sold pot for 2 years, while among 49 who were booked without detention was a beatbox singer also named Lee. Lee the gang member had been smuggling and selling in Seoul area clubs since April 2008. Police are attempting to find the whereabouts of 7 others who fled abroad.
How many English teachers were arrested? Who knows. The Kukmin Ilbo and My Daily make no mention of teachers in their reports, but you can always count on YTN and Yonhap for this.

YTN reported on this story the same day (which doesn't involve English teachers):
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's Narcotics Division has applied for arrest warrants for two men, including 41 year old Mr. Park, for growing marijuana in the basement of a downtown shopping district. Police have also booked without detention 18 people including 29-year-old Mr. Choi for buying from these two to sell or smoke.

Mr. Park and co. are accused of growing 52 plants in a market building basement in Seongnam over the last 5 months, selling 370 grams at area clubs and making 8.000.000 won. They installed special lighting and ventilation to grow and dry marijuana over a short period of time. As always, police are sure more people purchased from these men, and are expanding their investigation.
Indoor grow ops - not just for gyopo English teachers anymore. An SBS news report has more information, including video, and is the source of these screen shots (the building in question was in Bundang):

On June 15 the Gyeongin Ilbo reported on cases which involved foreign teachers. Of course, looking at the title, you'd imagine most of those arrested were teachers:
27 people including Native speaking teachers caught smuggling new drugs

Marijuana cake and other new drugs are spreading rapidly through Korea, and this influx is centered around native speaking teachers and American soldiers, alarmed authorities have revealed. Incheon police have revealed that the have caught 27 people, including foreign professors and native speaking teachers, smuggling new drugs like Kratom [I'd never heard of this before], JWH-018 [which has been mentioned here], and snacks containing marijuana. Of these 27, four have been arrested.

Two foreign university professors, including Canadian K (42), who teaches English literature, received smuggling charges for using international mail to smuggle Kratom from January to March. 24 year old Canadian 'S' was among 6 native speaking teachers arrested for bringing pot cookies and other snacks containing marijuana from January to May of this year.

11 Japanese, including 43 year old 'S' [likely not related to Canadian 'S', but who knows?] were arrested in a joint crackdown by prosecutors and customs for using international mail to smuggle new drugs like TFMPP, JWH-018, salvia divinorum.

Meanwhile, the Incheon District Prosecutors' Office uncovered a domestic methamphetamine smuggling ring with ties to a Mexican drug organization and caught six men. Three men were arrested and two men were booked without detention.
It would appear 8 of the 27 caught were foreign teachers, so why weren't the 11 Japanese arrested for meth (more numerous and a more dangerous drug) featured more prominently in the headline? Yes, that's a rhetorical question.

NoCut News steps up to bat to tie three different cases in Jeju together and paint a picture of foreign teacher pot smugglers as a threat to Korean society in a story from June 21:
In Jeju as well, case after case of foreign teachers smuggling pot

Among cases of smuggling and spreading marijuana through international mail, in Jeju as well there has been case after case centered on foreign teachers. A 24 year-old American (J) working as an English teacher in Jeju City was arrested on June 17 for secretly bringing in 388 grams of pot. He as well as other foreign teachers frequently used international express mail to have it sent from California, and received marijuana in the form of a cake, as well as other new forms of drugs.

Also, on June 10, another 24 year old American teacher (K) was arrested for having 44 pot seeds which he ordered from England sent to him through international mail, a case that was shocking because he was a native speaking teacher in an elementary school. [What if he was out walking and injecting himself with marijuana and he tripped over a local teacher passed out on the ground and accidentally jabbed the needle into a passing student!?]

Before this, on May 31, a 47 year old Canadian was arrested after ordering almost 11 grams of marijuana over the internet (from the Netherlands) which was sent through international mail and intercepted at Incheon Airport.

Thus, in the last three weeks there have been three cases of foreign teachers smuggling marijuana that have taken place in Jeju. Fortunately, the drugs have been discovered by customs at Incheon, but nationwide the spread of marijuana is linked to increased smuggling. Furthermore, most smuggling cases have involved foreign teachers, indicating it is becoming a serious social problem.
These cases were previously reported in the Jeju Ilbo on May 31, June 10, and June 21, respectively. They don't have much to add, other than that the 388 gram marijuana cake 'J' received was sent by his mother. The May 31 article about the 47 year old Canadian who had 11 grams mailed to him is similar to the NoCut news article in that neither of them make any mention of him being an English teacher, and yet NoCut news is able to talk about three cases in as many weeks of English teachers on Jeju smuggling marijuana. I also love the first sentence: "Among cases of smuggling and spreading marijuana through international mail, in Jeju as well there has been case after case centered on foreign teachers." NoCut News doesn't feel the need to describe any previous cases, since everyone already knows about the foreign teacher drug smuggling 'problem.' Note also that the sentence "He as well as other foreign teachers frequently used international express mail to have it sent from California, and received marijuana in the form of a cake, as well as other new forms of drugs" conflates more than one case while describing "J".

I have smuggling stats provided by customs for the past few years, but don't have the time to sift through them at the moment. Needless to say, while foreign teachers may have been over-represented in recent years, by no stretch of the imagination do you find that "most smuggling cases have involved foreign teachers."


Brian said...

oooh, cool, I used to live and work near that neighborhood in Bundang.

Alex said...

It's so infuriating to read about it when the words are so obviously skewing the numbers.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Glad you're writing about these things. It's frustrating to read the way in which this information is skewed by the specific newspapers you mention. Alas, I am not naive enough to believe that I am really welcome here.

Keep up the good work!

I primarily work on behalf or the indentured educated class in the United States, but have recently started a blog about my experiences in South Korea. (I know, it's shocking, right? An expat who's writing about living and working in Korea. Ha). In any event, I'm glad that I've found your blog, and am adding you to my bloglist.

-Cryn Johannsen
Founder of Education Matters (

South of North Korea (

Walter Foreman said...

This happen every year around this time. It seems as though the authorities wait until the end of the semester to make their busts so that all the uni students have their grades before their foreign profs/teachers are deported. Classy!

Darth Babaganoosh said...

Walter, according to a police officer student of mine, that's exactly it. Yeah, classy.

matt said...

I wonder if Seongnam city also touts trying to be a 'green city' like so many others...

Infuriating, sure, but after years of reading this stuff, it does start to become amusing, much like North Korean propaganda.

Cryn Johannsen:
Thanks for the comment - enjoyed reading through your blog.

Walter Foreman and Darth Babaganoosh:
I hadn't really noticed that as a pattern. There have been arrests from March to June this year, but it seems this is the first report of arrests of foreign university English teachers this year. Last June had the "We are Vampires" article about foreign university English teachers, a classic of the genre...

Darth Babaganoosh said...


the school-year arrests are most often of the NET hagwon monkey variety. Uni professors (usually) don't get arrested until after the grades are in.