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Young Korean gangsters appear to be holding social meetups

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : July 6, 2023 - 15:49

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Gang wars and bloody power struggles over territory and clout may be a thing of the past, as a new young generation of gangsters utilizes social media for communication and hold meetups, prosecutors have revealed recently.

According to local media reports, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office recently discovered that young gangsters of the same age belonging to different factions and families hold regular social meetings among themselves.

South Korean gang members are seen cheering in this photo released by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office. (Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office) South Korean gang members are seen cheering in this photo released by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office. (Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office)

The prosecutors came to learn of such meetups while the investigation of a gang responsible for a recent disturbance at a local hotel uncovered evidence.

“Gangsters today know that engaging in a full-on confrontation between factions would result in them all being dismantled, so there rarely are 'wars' between gangs these days,” a member of the prosecution was quoted as saying. “Instead, they opt for a win-win strategy of multiple groups participating in illegal deals.”

Such gatherings are suspected to provide an avenue for sharing know-how related to their illegal affairs, such as making private loans, conducting fraud and voice phishing, the official said.

South Korean gang members pose in this photo released by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office. (Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office) South Korean gang members pose in this photo released by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office. (Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office)

In most cases, one person from each gang participates in such inter-gang groups -- which consist of members of the same age. These meetings are held in amicable fashion, with drinking and dancing while photos of such gatherings are posted on social media afterwards.

One photo revealed by investigators showed young gang members -- clad in tattoos and with their shirts off -- cheering and laughing at what appears to be a local eatery.

Investigators pointed out that uploading such a photo on social media to boast of their influence would have been unheard of in the past, but such trends have become prevalent among young gang members here.

National Police Agency data from 2022 showed that of the 1,630 gang members nabbed by the police during the nationwide crackdown between April 20 and July 29 of last year, those in their 20s account for 34.4 percent. About 28.2 percent were in their 30s and 6.1 percent were in their teens.

The photos of the gangs’ social meetings were uncovered during the prosecution's investigation of a local gang, Soonoa Group, members of which were indicted last week for threatening employees of the Grand Hyatt Seoul in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, in 2020. The incident prompted a mass raid and arrest on the group, which investigators believe has been “effectively disbanded” by the crackdown.

Shin Joon-ho, chief prosecutor of the Violent Crime Investigation Department at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, speaks during a briefing about the prosecution's investigation of local gang Soonoa Group at the Seoul High Prosecutors' Office in this June 30 photo. (Yonhap) Shin Joon-ho, chief prosecutor of the Violent Crime Investigation Department at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, speaks during a briefing about the prosecution's investigation of local gang Soonoa Group at the Seoul High Prosecutors' Office in this June 30 photo. (Yonhap)