Posted June. 12, 2009 07:28,
○ Evolving smuggling methods
The Incheon Customs Office arrested a 27-year-old man on the charge of smuggling Chinese-made anti-impotence pills in April. He filled out a customs document saying he was importing two pieces of cubic marble in a container.
When the marble was put through an X-ray scanner for containers, the shade in the middle of the marble looked different from its surface. Customs inspectors opened the container to examine the marble. The exterior looked okay but a hole measuring 60 centimeters in diameter was sharply carved inside.
The inspectors later discovered 200,000 anti-impotence pills hidden inside.
On May 13, a man was caught trying to smuggle in counterfeit watches inside computer speakers to sell them online in Korea. The 45-year-old man sought to take advantage of looser customs clearance due to the massive import of cheap Chinese parts by Korean computer makers.
Bees are also a hot item to smuggle in. The Korea Customs Service discovered two beehives containing live bees when they caught two Chinese who arrived at Incheon International Passenger Pier No. 1.
The two reportedly tried to smuggle in Chinese bees known to be highly reproductive to distribute to beekeepers in Korea.
Smugglers generally try to sneak in a single item but others seek to bring in more items through a method known as department store smuggling.
Three would-smugglers tried to import items from China worth five billion won (3.99 million U.S. dollars) including ginseng, snakes, tobacco, counterfeit watches and anti-impotence pills. They pretended to be importing but were caught by the customs authorities.
○ Smuggling patterns according to economy
The volume of customs clearance goods via the Incheon customs office reached 11.47 billion dollars between January and April this year, down 45 percent year-on-year from 17.04 billion dollars last year.
Smuggled items caught by authorities were worth 276.6 billion won (221 million dollars based on the market prices for originals), comprising about 57 percent of the value of smuggled items -- 481.7 billion won or 384 million dollars -- in the same period last year.
At ports, smugglers often try to sneak in cheap and counterfeit products carried by containers from China shipped in as if they are imported legally.
At airports, smugglers mostly bring in small volume products and highly lucrative items including gold bars, narcotics and jewelry due to high airfare costs. As the economy slumps, however, the volume of smuggled items also decline in tandem, customs officials say.
The volume of most smuggled items that sell well in an economic boom, including watches, jewelry, foreign currency and narcotics, have declined from last year. That of agro-produce, which requires high transport costs due to large volume but is not as lucrative, has also declined.
Reflecting the demand for luxury brand products among people in their 20s and 30s earning less money amid the sluggish economy, the volume of smuggled general merchandise such as counterfeit clothing, shoes, wallets and accessories has significantly jumped.
The volume of anti-impotence pills has shot up 400-fold. The value of such pills seized between January and April last year was about 100 million won (79,700 dollars), but that figure jumped to 39 billion won (31.1 million dollars) in the same period this year.