(Within the National Police Agency, Lee is often referred to as the “Foreign Correspondent.” Lee was counselor to the Korean Embassy in the United States from 2006 to 2009. He was External Affairs Director from 2010 and became Commissioner General this year. During the interview, he emphasized the necessity of addressing crimes committed by foreigners.)Eminently sensible stuff. It's too bad his sentiments aren't so often reflected in the way the media likes to deal with the topic. For example, a week ago the Gwangju Ilbo reported on the increase in foreign crime there in an article titled "Foreign crimes in Gwangju ever increasing in number and ferocity." That's quite the sensationalist title; luckily, the rest of the article is pretty straightforward. The number of foreigners caught for crime there rose from 202 people in 2011 (8 arrested, 184 booked without detention) to 320 in 2012 (11 arrested, 309 booked without detention) - a 37% increase. The number of foreigners in Gwangju increased from 12,118 in 2009 to 14,492 in 2012.
How are you responding to crimes committed by foreigners?
There are approximately 1.5 million foreigners residing in Korea. In areas with a high concentration of foreigner populations, a lot of the crimes go unreported.
Foreigners often commit crimes against people of their own nationality and the victims often don’t report them. There are also illegal immigrants who can’t report crimes for fear of being deported. To promote the reporting of crimes, we have asked the Ministry of Justice to allow victims not to disclose their residency status.
Crimes against tourists are also rising. Apparently, there will be a tourist police unit in operation soon.
With the help of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, it will roll out in Seoul starting in October, and then next year in Busan and Incheon. One hundred police officers will be dispatched to seven locations in Seoul, and will address issues like taxi drivers overcharging tourists and other problems frequently encountered by travelers.
Conscripted police officers that speak English will be selected. The police uniform will also be different to that of the regular police.
[A look at the 2011 immigration statistics by region shows that there were 14,106 foreigners in Gwangju in 2011, which means only a small increase in numbers between 2011 and 2012, and a 1.4% crime rate in 2011 and 2.2% in 2012, quite the jump. Still, it's only one year, and a longer period of time is needed to perceive larger trends.]
The article looks at Gwangsan-gu in particular, saying the foreign population has increased 250% since 2006, when there were 3024 foreigners there, to 7469 this year. In the five years since 2008 there were 352 crimes by foreigners there, increasing from 44 in 2008 to 92 last year. 128 were caught for assault, 95 for traffic violations, 47 for fraud, 35 for theft, 4 for drugs, 3 for burglary, and 2 each for rape and gambling. By country, 120 were from China, 76 from Vietnam, 46 from Mongolia, 28 from the Philippines, 21 from Sri Lanka, 16 from Thailand, and 8 from Pakistan.
What I found interesting was that Gwangsan police recently appointed 29 foreigners such as female marriage migrants, foreign workers, hagwon instructors, foreign students and ministers from 11 countries such as China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, to be a part of a voluntary crime prevention patrol.
Twice a month they go to areas where foreigners gather or where there are lots of businesses, or to foreign housing or convenience stores in the Hanam industrial area and spread out on a crime prevention patrol in the hope that they can bridge language and cultural differences.
I'm kind of curious how that works, and also who these hagwon instructors might be.
(Hat tip to Mark Russell)