JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd insisted on Thursday authorities should investigate the supposed existence of a “Korean mafia” in the country and its involvement in the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo last year, despite findings to the contrary by the police.
At the resumption of the hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs into the Jee kidnap-slay case, Aguirre bared he was visited by the consul of the South Korean embassy and two police attachés, along with Jee’s wife, two weeks ago.
Aguirre said he told the Korean officials of the supposed mafia’s role in the murder of Jee, adding that he was informed that the businessman had been abducted twice by the group. He said he also asked the Koreans if they were aware of the information and that there was a prior demand for Jee to give protection money to the mafia.
“Mrs. Jee said that there was no such demand. But the two Korean officials told me that we should stop any further investigation with respect to this Korean mafia,” Aguirre told senators.
The Justice secretary said he was puzzled at the request of the embassy officials.
Aguirre also bared he was previously given derogatory information about another Korean, Kang Tai-shik, but was told by the Korean embassy that Kang was a legitimate businessman.
“I would like to ask, although I am not an investigator, we have to pursue every theory in the case,” Aguirre said in the hearing.
The Korean embassy, in a statement, said it was “strongly distressed” that Aguirre gave false information that could tarnish its honor and reputation.
It denied asking Aguirre to stop any probe into the supposed mafia and said it believed no embassy official had been compromised by such group.
Aguirre, it pointed out, requested the meeting and even “promised that the DOJ would not pursue any longer the angle of possible linkage with a Korean mafia in its future investigations into the case.”
“The Embassy official as well as the wife emphasized that Mr. Jee had lived an honest life as a conscientious businessmen, having no connections at all with any malicious Korean persons. The officials also recalled the PNP’s consistent confirmations that this case has nothing to do with a Korean mafia,” it said.
“With regard to Mr. Kang Tai-shik brought up by him during the meeting, the Embassy officials explained that he is a long-established Korean businessman, who has nothing to do with Mr. Jee’s case,” the Korean embassy added.
Both the Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) rejected the Korean mafia angle during the Senate inquiry.
PNP-AKG chief Glenn Dumlao said they were looking instead at the possible involvement of another Korean in ransom negotiations following Jee’s killing.
Dumlao said a certain Edward Yu-on was able to get a total of P800,000 from Jee’s wife. Yu-on supposedly approached the wife a day after the October 18, 2016 abduction and asked for P500,000 for Jee’s immediate release. The money would supposedly be split between the PNP-AKG and the NBI.
He was also said to have asked for another P100,000 to be given to the AKG director. Yu-on after a few days asked for another P200,000 from Mrs. Jee to pay the Land Transportation Office.
Jee was already dead when these transactions took place, as he was strangled to death in a parked car at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame and then cremated in Caloocan City hours after he was kidnapped.