Philippines murder stirs safety concerns


The recent death of a Korean travel writer in the Philippines has reignited concerns over the safety of Koreans in the Southeast Asian country, for long-term stays or short-term trips. While the number of Koreans living, doing business and traveling in the country is growing, data shows the Philippines is one of the more dangerous countries for Korean and other foreign visitors.


According to data submitted to Rep. Hong Chul-ho of the opposition Liberty Korea Party from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2017, 164 Koreans were killed abroad from 2012 to 2016. Of the murders, 48, or 29.3 percent, took place in the Philippines, which was more than double the number of people killed in the United States during the period, 21. The number has declined since, but still one Korean was killed in 2017 and three in 2018. About half of the victims were murdered by Filipinos, while another half were killed either by Koreans or Filipinos who were hired by Koreans, usually business rivals of the victims.  In 2014, a Korean student was found dead in a septic tank at a house in Bulacan, north of Manila. She was kidnapped when she took a taxi and was later killed, and the offenders said they kidnapped her because she looked rich.


In 2016, a 53-year-old Korean businessman was kidnapped and killed by rogue police, who took him using a fake search warrant saying he was involved in a drug crime. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte directly apologized to the victim’s widow. A Korean tourist surnamed Hwang, 46, was shot dead by two robbers in 2017. Another Korean businessman in his 40s was also shot dead while he was driving on Cebu Island in 2018.  To better handle increasing crimes against Koreans, six officers from the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) have been dispatched to the Philippine National Police for a special unit in charge of such crimes, called the Korean Desk.

As concerns are rising over safety among Koreans planning to visit the Philippines, the police and the foreign ministry said major tourist destinations with beaches and big shopping malls are relatively safe. But the Korean Embassy to the Philippines also released a safety guide for Korean citizens last November, recommending against catching taxis in front of cash machines and even using cabs at night.

According to the embassy and the Philippine police, Joo Young-wook, a well-known 58-year-old travel columnist who also runs a travel agency, was found shot to death in Antipolo, east of Manila, the morning of June 16. When the local police found the body, Joo had a gunshot wound in his forehead, his mouth was covered and his hands were tied with duct tape as if he had been kidnapped and robbed. Joo had been visiting the Philippines to do market research for new tour programs. It is yet to be known whether he was killed in Antipolo or was moved to the city after being murdered elsewhere. Three KNPA officials have been dispatched to investigate the case with the local police.


By Bahk Eun-ji

(Korea Times)

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