Posted : 2014-04-10 17:56
Updated : 2014-04-10 21:06

Philippines turns into death trap for Koreans

The following is the first of a three-part series on growing safety risks facing Koreans in the Philippines in the wake of a series of murders of students, businessmen and travelers in the Southeast Asian country. ― ED.

By Kim Se-jeong

The death of a female college student in Manila has renewed concerns about the safety of Koreans in the Philippines, a popular destination for students, businessmen and retirees.

She was the fourth Korean killed in the country this year.

Last year, 12 Koreans were shot or stabbed to death; but no suspects have been taken into custody.

The foreign ministry dismissed a claim that Koreans were being targeted.

"The Philippine's criminal system is weak, and, without exception, the number of crimes and killings of visitors is rising for Chinese, Japanese and Americans alike. Each visitor should stay vigilant."

Experts opine that the Koreans are often victims of contract killings organized by their compatriots.

The Philippine embassy was not available for comment.

On Tuesday, Lee, a 21-year-old student, was found dead outside Manila.

She had been kidnapped more than a month ago.

Her body was found in the hideout of her kidnappers, who reportedly called her brother for a ransom.

No information is available about the identity of the kidnappers and their motivation.

In February, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a Korean man was found dead on a highway near Benguet, north of Manila. The police found gunshot wounds on his body. This was followed by two separate shootings, both in Angeles City, north of Manila — one in February and the other on April 6.

Some experts pointed their finger at Korean criminals there, saying that more protection is needed for travelers.

"It is highly possible that there are Koreans behind these crimes," said Professor Kim Dong-yeob at Busan University of Foreign Studies.

According to him, the majority of cases involving Korean victims are contract killings. "Many Koreans flying to the Philippines have a reason to flee Korea. Many are gang members escaping law enforcement. What they end up doing is paying people to swindle money from Koreans. businessmen, students and tourists."

Cho Yang-eun, a leader of Korean organized gang named "Yangeunyi" is one example. He was detained in November last year in the northern Philippines.

According to the National Police Agency, 170 criminals on its wanted list are currently in the Philippines.

A Korean running a private youth hostel in the Philippines echoed the professor.

"The cause of crimes involving Korean nationals happening in the Philippines is either a contract killing or a random one targeting wealthy Koreans," she said, declining to be named.

Koreans are the biggest expatriate community in the Philippines. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 88,000 Koreans were living in the Philippines in 2012. The Philippine Department of Tourism said more than 1.16 million Koreans entered the country last year.

Prof. Park noted understanding the country could explain rampant killings higher than neighboring countries.

"You can own a gun in the Philippines. Also, it is a Catholic country, meaning people probably feel freer than those visiting Malaysia or Indonesia which are Muslim countries. And take Thailand, for example. They have better protection for foreign tourists," Park said.

Kidnappings are also rampant in southern islands where anti-government militants have been fighting for many years.

On Thursday, the foreign ministry announced that it will dispatch a diplomat and police officers to the Philippines to study safety conditions and find ways to beef up safety for Korean nationals.

관련 한글 기사

한해 100만명 찾는 필리핀, 올해 4번째 한국인 피살

정부, 필리핀 주재 우리 경찰인력 증원 추진

한국인 유학생이 피랍 한 달 만에 끝내 피살된 채 9일 발견되는 등 필리핀에서 강력 범죄에 의한 한국인 피해가 증가하고 있다.

정부는 우리 국민을 대상으로 하는 강력 범죄가 늘면서 현지 주재 교민이나 우리 방문객의 각별한 주의를 당부하는 한편 필리핀에 주재하는 우리 치안 인력을 늘리는 방안 등을 추진하고 있다.

관광, 교육, 사업 등의 목적으로 매년 필리핀을 방문하는 우리 국민 수는 100만명을 훌쩍 웃돈다. 그 수는 지난 2012년 처음으로 100만명을 넘어섰고 작년에는 대지진 등 각종 자연재해에도 약 116만명이 방문한 것으로 집계됐다.

교민을 포함해 현지에 체류하는 우리 국민은 8만여명이며 그중 3만명이 유학생으로 추정된다.

필리핀에서는 허술한 총기 규제와 치안 불안을 틈타 청부살인과 납치 등 외국인을 겨냥한 강력사건들이 잇따르고 있고, 특히 우리 국민을 대상으로 하는 범죄가 갈수록 늘고 있다.

올해만 해도 지난 1월과 2월, 북부 관광도시 바기오와 앙헬레스에서 한국인 남성 2명이 총격을 받고 숨졌으며, 지난 6일에는 앙헬레스의 한 식당에서 가족과 함께 식사하던 한국인 남성이 역시 괴한 총격으로 숨졌다.

이번 사건을 포함해 올들어 범죄로 숨진 한국인 피해자가 4명이나 된다. 2009년부터 지금까지 5년간 우리 국민이 피살된 사건은 40건에 달한다.

이번 사건은 관광객을 노린 범죄나 이권다툼에서 벌어진 사건이 아닌, 유학생을 대상으로 했다는 점에서 더욱 충격을 주고 있다.

정부 당국자는 '이번 사건은 여태까지 일어난 사건과 성격이 다르다'면서 '이런 사건이 재발하지 않도록 노력을 기울일 것'이라고 밝혔다.

정부는 필리핀 경찰청에 설치된 한국인 관련 범죄 전담팀인 '코리안 데스크'의 인원 증원과 필리핀 주재 우리 대사관의 경찰 인력 증원 등을 추진하고 있다.

정부는 또 우리 국민 41만여명이 방문하는 인기 관광지로 최근 강력사건 발생이 잦은 필리핀 세부에 우리 공관 설치를 확정, 상반기 중 개소를 계획하고 있다.

한편 외교부에 따르면 2009년 1월부터 2013년 1월까지 4년간 필리핀에서 가장 많이 자국인이 피살된 국가는 인도(65명)였다. 중국(34명), 미국(28명)이 그 뒤를 이었으며 우리나라가 4번째로 피해가 많다.

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