The Korea Herald


Paradise Group denies ties with ex-fiance of fencing medalist

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Oct. 26, 2023 - 15:14

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Nam Hyun-hee (Herald DB) Nam Hyun-hee (Herald DB)

Local casino and resort conglomerate Paradise Group on Thursday officially denied any relations with Jeon Cheong-jo, a con artist whose lie-riddled engagement with the former Olympic silver medalist Nam Hyun-hee has been making headlines here.

The former athlete had broken off her engagement with Jeon on Wednesday, hours after which Jeon was arrested by police on accusations of stalking Nam. It was also revealed by police on Thursday that Jeon had a woman's resident registration number, although Nam said she had known all along her former fiance had had sex reassignment surgery.

“Baseless claims about the (Paradise) company have been spreading online in relation to Jeon Cheong-jo, which is severely detrimental to our reputation and image,” the company said in an official statement. Jeon claimed to be an extramarital child of the Paradise Group chief Philip Jeon.

“We express sincere concern toward the false claim that Jeon is an extramarital child of the (chief of the) Paradise group, and again stress that it is not true.”

This was not the first time the relatively media-shy conglomerate has been targeted by fraudsters. Actor Kim Sang-jung in 2003 broke off his engagement after his bride-to-be lied about being part of Paradise Group’s owner family, and performance artist Nancy Lang in 2017 married and eventually divorced a man who also pretended to be part of the owner family.

The allegations surrounding Nam’s groom-to-be surfaced immediately after she announced her engagement Monday, mainly concerning Jeon's gender and past convictions for extortion.

In addition to the extortion allegations being true, Nam also revealed that Jeon also swindled hundreds of millions of won (hundreds of thousands of dollars) from her acquaintances.

Police said Thursday that they were investigating Jeon for claims of extortion and attempted extortion filed by Kim Min-seok, a member of the Gangseo-gu District Council in Seoul. Kim filed the charges based on a tip-off he got from a victim in her 20s, whom Jeon pressured to borrow as much in bank loans as possible for “investment.”

Nam said in a media interview Thursday that Jeon had two resident registration numbers. The 13-digit number is issued to every South Korean national, and the first digit is different for male and female -- the number for every male born before 2000 starts with 1, while their female peers have numbers starting with 2.

The resident registration card that Jeon showed reporters had a number starting with 1. But a police background check showed that the number started with a 2.

Only one resident registration number is issued to a South Korean, and although it is possible to change the number as part of the gender reassignment procedure, it is unclear if Jeon did that. It is unclear if either of Jeon’s two resident numbers is real. Jeon in the past extorted money from victims by posing as both men and women.