Posted : 2013-01-06 19:14
Updated : 2013-01-06 19:14

500 gangsters gather at funeral for ex-boss

Kim Tae-chon
By Yun Suh-young

Over 500 gangsters have gathered at the memorial service of an ex-gang leader Kim Tae-chon who died Saturday.

The mortuary was set up at the Asan Medical Center in Songpa-gu, Seoul.

Kim was the notorious leader of "Seobangpa," which used to be one of the three largest gangs in the nation. He died due to heart failure at around 12:40 a.m. Saturday at Seoul National University Hospital in Jongno, Seoul,. He was 64.

He had been receiving treatment since March at the hospital's intensive care unit as he had difficulty in breathing.

The mortuary was guarded by dozens of men who were suspected to be the late Kim's followers or subordinates.

Around 100 police officers were dispatched to prevent any physical attacks or disturbances but no trouble took place at the funeral parlor that day.

No politicians or celebrities visited the mortuary, possibly due to fear of criticism if they were found to have connections with the gang leader.

There were, however, dozens of wreaths sent by celebrities and notable figures such as singer Seol Un-do and boxing champion Yum Dong-kyun among others. Sports commentator Ha Il-sung personally visited the funeral parlor to pay his respect. Ha is known to have kept a close relationship with Kim, according to police.

Cho Yong-gi, founder of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, and several other church leaders also sent wreaths. Cho was a figure Kim respected greatly, according to the gang boss' acquaintances. Apparently Cho prayed for Kim regularly after he was released from prison in 1989. Kim, however, was back in prison several more times for violent acts and fraud.

Public reaction has been critical that so much attention has been given to Kim's passing.

"Why is Kim's death covered so greatly? The media didn't even care when former sex slaves to the Japanese military died of old age," said one netizen.

Another said, "Five laborers have died since Dec. 19 and of them, four committed suicide. The public and the media couldn't care less about their deaths. Now the news of one gangster's death has dominated the media."

Kim headed the "Seobangpa" gang, active in the 1970s and ‘80s. The other two biggest gangs then were "Yangeunipa" led by Cho Yang-eun and "OB" led by Lee Dong-jae.

Kim has 812 fans in his Internet fan club.

He will be buried on Tuesday in Damyang, South Jeolla Province.

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