Go to contents

Captured Thief Capitalized on Victims` Silence

Posted May. 27, 2008 08:53,   


Police have in custody a thief who stole money and goods worth 10 billion won (approximately 9.53 million U.S. dollars) from homes in the ritzy Gangnam area of southern Seoul.

The Gangnam Police Department yesterday said its investigation also found that many of the victims did not even report the thief’s crimes to police. The case is reminiscent of Cho Sae-hyeong, a notorious thief in the 1970s and early 80s.

The 39-year-old thief, identified only as Kim, was arrested May 8.

▽Expert on Gangnam

Kim reportedly stole money and goods exclusively from luxurious houses in the Gangnam area, an upscale district which is home to many of Korea’s rich.

He had been arrested in 2004 for burglarizing empty homes in Gangnam and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Released in June 2005, he went back to his old crimes in Gangnam after 13 months.

Kim, who has six prior convictions for burglary, repeated his crime spree by stealing money and goods worth millions of won, including camcorders, rings and necklaces, in a home in Nonhyeon-dong in September 2006.

In January this year, he broke open a window at an apartment in Samseong-dong and stole 100 million won worth of goods, including a two-carat diamond ring. By April, he had robbed 49 houses within the Gangnam area.

“Many rich people live in Gangnam, and I could make big money from each job,” Kim told police.

Police said he focused on Nonhyeon-dong, Cheongdam-dong and Samseong-dong, three neighborhoods in Gangnam which have luxurious houses worth billions of won.

“Kim mainly broke into homes whose lights were off on the ground floor because they were easy to enter through the veranda,” an officer said. “Sometimes he burglarized a ground-floor apartment and the unit right above it. We are investigating if he also committed burglary before September 2006.”

Kim told police that he took about five to 10 minutes to burglarize a home and stole money and goods worth at least tens of millions of won in each case.

▽Half of victims failed to report

Police also say about half of Kim’s victims never reported the burglaries, despite Kim also stealing cash, bank notes, jewelry, expensive watches, dollars and euros.

“Of 49 cases of burglary Kim committed, only about half were reported,” the officer said. “The remaining half was confirmed through Kim’s testimony and spot investigations.”

Those who failed to report a crime said they did not realize anything had been stolen or that someone had broken in, since they noticed nothing missing.

“The victims range from the executive of a large firm and the president of a small company to a pharmacist and a famous star,” the officer said. “It is hard to understand how they didn’t even realize that their money, brand watches and jewelry worth tens of millions of won were stolen.”

The reluctance of the victims to report allowed Kim to continue his crime wave, breaking into homes within the same apartment complexes.

▽ Luxurious lifestyle from theft

With the money he made from stealing, he bought a BMW for more than 100 million won (approximately 95,300 dollars) and rented an apartment in the Jamsil area for 1.5 million won per month.

Kim also led a luxurious lifestyle with his girlfriend. He bought her a Lexus for 60 million won and gave her about 10 million won as a monthly living expense. The couple played golf together and frequently traveled abroad.

He also prepared a story that poverty caused him to steal in case of arrest. Kim changed his registered address to a multiplex house in the eastern Seoul suburb of Guri whose rent was just 400,000 won a month. He then spread the billions he made as a thief in the bank accounts of his relatives.

“Kim knew that sentences are lighter for poverty-driven criminals and intentionally rented a multiplex house where he pretended to live,” said the officer.

Police will confiscate all of the assets and possessions Kim stole during his burglary spree.