1. South Korea $26.2 Billion


  2. Black Market Crime in South Korea


Data and information about security threats from South Korea’s black market. Intelligence and security information collected from government agencies, news articles and other public data sources.

Security and intelligence officials in Russia estimate that over $700 Million worth of crab is illegally fished and poached from its waters each year. Most of the boats that poach crab from Russian waters are registered in Cambodia or Sierra Leone with its crew being from Russia. Most of the illegally caught crab is transported to Japan and South Korea.

Fishermen in Alaska also report losing sales due to illegal fishing of crab. The trade group in the state reports that at least $560 Million was lost over the past decade due to illegal crab poachers undercutting their prices.

Source: Stephanie May Joyce, “Searching for the Russian Crab Mafia,” Bloomberg Businessweek, June 19, 2014.

A BBC report stated that many women in their 50s, 60s and 70s in South Korea are offering sexual services to elderly men in order to survive. The women gather in Jongmyo Park in Seoul where they offer Bacchus energy drinks for sale. Retired men who gather in the park purchase the energy drink and then bring the woman to a nearby motel.

According to one customer interviewed by the BBC, the price for sex with the women costs between $19 to $29 (20,000 to 30,000 South Korean Won.)

About 400 women work as prostitutes in the park. A social worker who interviewed the women stated that one women started working as a prostitute at age 68. Most of the women are experiencing financial difficulties.

(Additional prostitute rates from around the world.)

Source:  Lucy Williamson, “The Korean grandmothers who sell sex,” BBC News, June 9, 2014.

The Financial Services Commission in South Korea reported that 110 tons of gold is traded in the country each year. Out of the total gold trade, about 70 tons of gold bullion is traded on the black market.

The value of the black market gold in South Korea is estimated to be about $3 Billion (3.3 Trillion South Korean Won). The Government of South Korea loses an estimated $280 Million in tax revenue from the gold smuggling.

In 2013, criminal justice programs across the country seized 360 kilograms of gold as it was being smuggled into the country. The number of busts conducted by Customs officers doubled in 2013 when compared to 2012.

The Korea Precious Metals Distributors’ Associated states that buying smuggling gold on the black market can be up to 7 percent cheaper than buying gold through proper channels.

Financial and tax experts in South Korea state that many people buy gold bars in order to hide income.

Source:  Heesu Lee, “Korea Exchange Seeks a Cut of $3 Billion Illegal Gold Trade,” Blooomberg Businessweek, March 24, 2014.

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The central bank in South Korea removed 3,585 counterfeit banknotes from circulation in 2013. In 2012, a total of 8,627 fake bills were removed from circulation.

The number of fake 50,000 won note that was removed declined by 74 percent to 84 bills in 2013. The number of counterfeit 10,000 won notes removed declined by 76 percent to 909 fake bills.

According to the Bank of Korea, the number of counterfeit money per 1 million banknotes in South Korea was 0.2. In comparison, Japan has a rate of 0.2 counterfeit banknotes per 1 million, while Australia has 10.2, Canada has 28, and Mexico has 33.7 fakes per million.

(How criminals make counterfeit money.)

Source:  Yonhap News Agency, “Fake bills fall 58.4 pct in 2013,” Global Post, February 23, 2014.

There is an active black market in North Korea for Choco Pie, a marshmallow chocolate pie that is sold around the world.

Media reports state that North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex first came across the pie when working for South Korean firms. The firm would pack a lunch box for the workers and include a Choco Pie as a dessert. The workers began taking it home with them and sharing it with their families, which later spread throughout the community.

According to news reports by CNN and the Daily Mail, the price of a Choco Pie on North Korea’s black market in $10, with some reports of the pie being sold for $23.

The pies are manufactured in South Korea at a cost of $0.50 per pie.

The average income for a typical North Korean worker is between $100 to $200 a month.

(More goods and services bought on the black market.)

Source:  “The chocolate treat so popular in North Korea that workers are buying it for up to a day’s wages on the black market from South,” Daily Mail, January 27, 2014.

The Polaris Project, an non-governmental organization, estimates that there are up to 54,000 human trafficking victims that are bought and sold in Japan each year.

In an article with the Bangkok Post, the report highlighted cases where women from the Philippines, Thailand and South Korea were trafficked to Japan in order to work in the prostitution industry.

In addition to women from foreign countries, girls and women from Japan are trafficked within the country. The Polaris Project states that domestic violence victims, single mothers and other women facing financial struggles are targeted. It was previously reported that minors were having sex with men for $100.

(More prices of human trafficking victims.)

Source:  “Activists demand action against human trafficking in Japan,” Bangkok Post, December 25, 2013.

In 2009, security services in South Korea arrested 73,000 people for various prostitution charges across the country.

In 2012, officials arrested 21,123 people.

Although final figures were unavailable, South Korean media stated that criminal justice programs increased enforcement in 2013 due to criticism on the lower arrest rates. In a single day in December, authorities arrested 650 people for prostitution related charges. During the raids, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency shut down 231 illegal gambling houses and brothels that were operating across the city.

Between November and December 2013, criminal justice agencies shut down a total of 76 illegal brothels that were operating in South Korea.

(Cost of prostitution around the world.)

Source:  Yoon Ha-youn, “Over 600 arrested in crackdown on sex, gambling crimes: Seoul,” Asia One, December 16, 2013.

Capsules filled with the remains of dead human fetuses are being smuggled into South Korea from China, according to the Korea Customs Service. The pills are advertised as a stamina enhancement drug and are in high demand despite public health programs explaining that the pills are filled with bacteria and could cause serious health problems when taken.

The first reports of these human flesh pills were reported in South Korea in August 2011. From August 2011 to August 2012, security officials stopped 94 smuggling attempts that were attempting to bring in pills from China. Nearly 43,600 human flesh pills were seized in those incidents.

In the first eight months of 2013, the Korea Customs Service seized capsules in 25 smuggling attempts.

Smugglers attempt to avoid Customs by smuggling the pills in Chinese tourists luggage, in mobile phones, and are even using the postal service. One case in June involved the pills being mailed from the United States.

Source:  Yonhap, “Smuggling of human flesh pills continues despite intensified crackdown: data,” Global Post, October 28, 2013.

South Korean law mandates that men who are arrested for prostitution solicitation must attend “john schools” in an attempt to lower repeat offenders.

In 2009, the number of men forced to attend the classes peaked at nearly 35,000.

In 2011, the number of men declined to 7,400. Criminal justice officials in South Korea believe that the decline in attendees is not because there are fewer men visiting prostitutes, but due to the difficulty in detecting prostitution.

A government report estimated that there were 147,000 prostitutes working in South Korea.

(Number of prostitutes by country.)

Source:  Kim Young-jin, “Sex trafficking victims fight social stigma,” Korea Times, October 28, 2013.

South Korean law mandates that men who are arrested for prostitution solicitation must attend “john schools” in an attempt to lower repeat offenders.

In 2009, the number of men forced to attend the classes peaked at nearly 35,000.

In 2011, the number of men declined to 7,400. Criminal justice officials in South Korea believe that the decline in attendees is not because there are fewer men visiting prostitutes, but due to the difficulty in detecting prostitution.

A government report estimated that there were 147,000 prostitutes working in South Korea.

(Number of prostitutes by country.)

Source:  Kim Young-jin, “Sex trafficking victims fight social stigma,” Korea Times, October 28, 2013.