Las Vegas was built in the middle of a desert in 1946 when mafia boss Benjamin Bugsy Siegel set up the casino-hotel Flamingo. Twenty-four crime families had 150,000 members in the 1960s, but a tougher crackdown and a more transparent social system drove them to start legitimate businesses and leave their traditional turf. In Japan, the yakuza are making inroads into entertainment such as performance planning and movie production, manufacturing and medical services instead of fighting.
In Korea, a gang leader cannot command the respect of younger members without money and will likely lose his or her position without financing. Since the early 1990s, when the Roh Tae-woo administration declared war on crime, gangs have refrained from fighting each other and focused on coexisting in the bigger business world, according to Talking about Korean Gangs author Cho Sung-sik.
Seoul prosecutors have discovered a group of gangsters, corporate raiders and money lenders that allegedly bilked a promising venture company three years after taking it over. Ten suspects have been prosecuted, including the 40-something gang leader. They are known to have embezzled money from the company they acquired, made false payments, committed accounting fraud, and inflicted financial losses of 60 billion won (53.3 million U.S. dollars) on investors. In the past, gangs used to target specific victims and had a limited scope of damage. In the 21st century, however, the mob damages a random majority and has a bigger scope, prosecutors say.
While the first generation of gangs before 2000 would stick to traditional mob areas such as the adult entertainment business and liquor sales, the second generation between 2000 and 2006 made inroads into the real estate market such as developers and the markets for apartments and commercial facilities. After 2006, the third generation entered the financial market by acquiring a company with no capital, embezzling corporate money, and manipulating stock prices as the real estate market slumped and the financial market went up. The nature of the first and third generations remains the same in that they are a societal evil that erodes social and economic order and the rule of law and harms the people. Prosecutors and police should thus do more to root out sophisticated economic crimes by the mafia.