JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd on Sunday said he had “cleared the air” with the Korean embassy, with Seoul’s ambassador to Manila agreeing to a probe into the alleged hand of a Korean mafia in the death of businessman Jee Ick Joo last October.
Aguirre made the statement following a meeting with embassy officials last February 24 at the Department of Justice.
“I explained to them that as the Secretary of Justice, it is my responsibility to bring justice to the victims and to bring to courts the criminals,” he said. “Consequently, I take such responsibility seriously and tell the agencies under me, in this case the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), to explore all angles and possible leads.”
Aguirre said he relayed confidential information to Korean Ambassador Kim Jae Shin, who then gave the NBI the “go signal to investigate any involvement of the Korean Mafia, if any, in the abduction and in the killing of the Korean National, Mr. Jee Ick Joo.”
“We also renewed our respective commitments to work towards a better and stronger Philippine-South Korean relations,” Aguirre added.
As this developed, a Korean businessman urged Aguirre to identify the tipster who tagged him as the leader of the Korean mafia in the Philippines.
Kang Tae Sik, through his lawyer, said naming the tipster who allegedly gave Aguirre false information would expose the existence and illegal activities of the group.
Lawyer Redentro Viaje told reporters: “My client [Kang] was a victim of this what we called ‘Korean-Filipino Mafia,’ not a leader.”
In the February 23 Senate hearing on the Jee kidnap-slay at the hands of policemen, Aguirre said an administration official told him that Kang heads the Korean mafia.
Viaje claimed the syndicate was trying to implicate Kang in Jee’s kidnap-slay, to neutralize him
Based on what had happened to Kang, the existence of a Korean-Filipino mafia that victimizes Koreans in the Philippines was plausible, he said.
Viaje recalled that in 2015, Kang was slapped with a supposedly trumped-up deportation case after refusing to heed the demand of the group to relinquish to them his multi-million Korean wine importation business and pay P50 million as “peace offering.”
Former Korean ambassador Yuk Lee, Korean church leaders and the United Korean Community Association in the Philippines Inc. wrote to then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and former Bureau of Immigration (BI) commissioner Siegfried Mison to vouch for Kang’s character.
Still, BI operatives raided Kang’s Makati office and detained him.
Eventually, the cases against Kang were dismissed by the Department of Justice during the short stint of now Supreme Court Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, who gave credence to the endorsement made by the Korean Embassy on Kang’s standing.
“Clearly, the one feeding wrong information to [Secretary] Aguirre are the leaders of the mafia, not my client,” Viaje said.
Kang, 72, is the president of K&L Jinro Phils., Inc. and has been doing business in the country for 46 years.
WITH JING VILLAMENTE