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Private detectives

Posted January. 08, 2013 03:54,   


On the night of Feb. 22, 1861, a special train carrying Abraham Lincoln stopped in West Philadelphia. A telegram notifying his arrival had not been sent to the next stop, Baltimore. Lincoln then boarded a horse carriage that had been on stand-by to be transported to another train station that was not on his itinerary. After arriving in Baltimore at 3:30 a.m. the next day, he got on another train and entered the capital three hours later. This was eight days before his presidential inauguration. Detective Allan Pinkerton discovered a separatist plot to assassinate Lincoln Feb. 23. He saved the president by changing his train schedules and taking over a telegraph station. Pinkerton founded the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1850, the first private detective agency in the U.S.

Shogyo Koshinjo, which was founded in Osaka in 1892, was Japan`s first credit investigation agency. As securities transactions grew active due to industrial development since the Meiji Restoration, the need grew to check the credibility of business partners. Koshinjo met this demand and began the private detective business in Japan. The country allows both private detectives and koshinjos, whose main business is to investigate extramarital affairs by their clients` spouses. These days, they also help couples legally separate or conduct checks on their clients` marriage partners.

More people are hiring private investigators before they get married to check their future spouses assets, educational backgrounds, occupations and incomes. While most clients want to know if their spouses were unfaithful in the past, the client base has expanded to those engaged to be married. Yet background check requests were also made in the past. The Oct. 20, 1962, edition of The Dong-A Ilbo had an article on a man and a woman who had gone on a blind date secretly hired a private detective agency to check each other`s past. Both of them were found to have lied to each other about themselves.

How deeply private investigators can dig up a person`s past is simply amazing. They can report on a person`s assets, relationships with the opposite sex, habits and even drinking style. Certain agencies claim to be able to check if a woman had an abortion or whether a person had a sexually transmitted disease or other ailments by tracking medicines prescribed to them. After reading such articles, one might wonder if the private investigators could do background checks on candidates for high government offices. The idea might be outrageous but is certainly not absurd, considering instances in which past administrations were disgraced after failing to properly screen candidates for prime minister or other Cabinet members. How problematic that the official screening process using data collected by police, prosecutors and intelligence authorities occasionally produces results less accurate than those of private investigations. The incoming administration should not lose the public trust by failing to properly screen such candidates.

Political Desk Reporter Min Dong-yong (mindy@donga.com)