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Daepo Phones

Posted November. 04, 2010 11:31,   


“Daepo” in Korean literally means “cannon,” but is also used to describe someone who tells big lies. The word can refer to something that is “noisy outside but empty inside.” So this explains how the term “daepo phones” used by Korean investigative agencies over the past 10 years originated.

Daepo phones are mobile phones established under borrowed names and social security numbers. Criminals use these phones to avoid law enforcement. A person put up a product for sale on an auction site at a fire-sale price, talked to customers with daepo phones, used other people’s names to create a daepo bank account, and fled on a daepo car. Daepo phones are also widely used in kidnapping and fraud using spam text messaging. People trying to commit crimes use daepo phones. Some even create Web sites where people post claims for damage that they never suffered.

Prosecutors found that the Prime Minister’s Office used daepo phones in its illegal surveillance of civilians. An administrative officer working at the Office of the Presidential Secretary for Employment and Labor gave a daepo phone to his subordinate under the name of an executive of a state-owned company. The employee used the phone to contact a PC engineer to destroy the surveillance records, but the phone might have been used for other purposes.

An official at the presidential office could have given the daepo phone to the employee to cut off connection between the presidential office and staff. Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam said Monday, “Prosecutors submitted evidence of daepo phone use to the court immediately after charges were filed in the surveillance case.” An official at the court, however, said he never received the materials, raising speculation that the justice minister lied to conceal the truth. Prosecutors must find out the truth behind the daepo phones before it is too late.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)