South Korea Security Threats

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.

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.

In an article by the Korean Times, a 26 year old female stated that she was working as a prostitute after defecting from North Korea. The woman stated that she borrowed $6,000 from a broker to obtain the necessary documents to help her defect to South Korea. The woman was told that she would be working at a karaoke bar in order to repay the loan.

Once in South Korea, the woman had her passport taken and was forced to work in a brothel. The woman would earn $70 for each session she had with a customer.

The sex industry in South Korea is estimated to be worth $12 Billion, with 46,000 brothels in operation.

(More earnings and income from the black market.)

Source:  Kim Young-jin and Kim Jae-won, “Int;l sex trafficking – Korea’s open secret,” Korea Times, October 14, 2013.

From 2003 to 2013, there have been 4,605 cases of illegal fishing taking place within the waters of South Korea by Chinese boats.

Out of the total number of illegal fishing cases, 3,228 cases were in violation by Chinese boats of fishing agreements made between the two countries. Since 2004, there have been 1,062 boats from China cited by South Korean authorities for illegal fishing.

In the first 9 months of 2013, there has been 266 boats seized or cited for unlicensed fishing in South Korea.

69 security officials have been killed or injured during the 10 year span battling illegal fishing.

Source:  Yonhap, “Illegal Chinese fishing in S. Korean waters total 4,600 cases over past decade,” Global Post, October 7, 2013.


According to criminal justice officials, there were on average 296 cyber attacks made by computer hackers in South Korea per day in 2012. In total, cyber security officials registered 108,232 cyber attacks in all of 2012.

In 2011, there were a reported 116,961 cyber attacks that took place in South Korea, and 122,902 attacks by hackers in 2010.

Source:  “More than 100,000 cases of cybercrime occur in S. Korea every year,” Yonhap, October 4, 2013.

Australia’s government lost up to $1.1 Billion in tobacco tax revenue in 2012 due to cigarette smuggling activities.

Security agencies in Australia 82 million black market cigarettes in 2011. In 2012, the number of illicit cigarettes increased to 122 million.

2.7 billion cigarettes were smoked in the country in 2012 that were purchased without the payment of taxes, or 11.3 percent of all cigarettes smoked. Most of the contraband cigarettes were either smuggled into Australia from China or South Korea or produced in homegrown tobacco shops.

Source:  Lily Kuo, “Australia lost $1.1 billion because of illegal cigarettes last year,” Quartz, October 2, 2013.

Data from the National Police Agency in South Korea showed that there were 8,202 cases involving the counterfeiting of money in the country. The number of cases investigated by security agencies was a 225 percent increase from the 3,644 cases investigated in 2008.

The number of people arrested for counterfeiting banknotes in South Korea also increased during this time period. In 2008, police arrested 182 people for counterfeiting money crimes. In 2012, there were 265 suspects apprehended, a 145 percent increase.

Security experts state that the increase is caused to the economic slump that leads people to use high quality printers and scanners in an attempt to counterfeit money.

Source:  Yonhap, “Counterfeiting of banknotes more than double in 4 years,” GlobalPost, September 21, 2013.

In the first six months of 2013, prosecutors from the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office arrested 4,601 people for abusing or trafficking illegal drugs in South Korea. The number of people arrested was 4.8 percent higher than the number arrested in the first half of 2012. 50.6 percent of those arrested was charged with using banned drugs, while the rest were convicted for circulating, smuggling or producing illicit drugs.

Security officials also seized 30.6 kilograms of illegal drugs in the first half of 2013, an increase of 6 kilograms from the same time period the year before. Two-thirds of the drugs that was confiscated in 2013 was methamphetamine.

(More crystal meth facts here.)

Source:  Yonhap, “Sharp rise in suppliers of illegal psychoactive drugs: prosecution,” Global Post, August 18, 2013.

A report by the Customs Agency of South Korea stated that up to $139.9 Million (157.8 Billion South Korean Won) was laundered through the United States in 2012. The amount of money laundered by South Koreans in 2013 was significantly higher than the $7.5 Million (8.5 Billion Won) laundered in 2011, and the $88,900 (100 Million Won) laundered through the US in 2009.

The Customs agency also reported that up to $22.4 Million (25.2 Billion Won) was laundered through China in 2012, an increase from the $7.5 Million (8.5 Billion Won) that was laundered through China in 2011.

(What is money laundering? Cases and techniques here.)

Source:  “U.S., China emerge as major channels for money laundering: report,” GlobalPost, July 10, 2013.

In 2009, the Korea Customs Service discovered 150  cases of drug smuggling. In 2012, the number of cases discovered by the KCS increased to 232.

In the first five months of 2013, customs officials seized 21.7 kilograms of methamphetamine at South Korean harbors and airports. The amount of meth seized during that time frame was higher than the total amount of meth seized in 2012.  Officials also report that the number of methamphetamine trafficking groups that are using South Korea as a transportation hub is increasing as well. In 2009, just 1 kilograms of the meth seized in South Korea was destined for another country. In 2011, the amount of meth destined for a third country increased to 7.8 kilograms, and rose again to 16 kilograms in 2012.

Marijuana trafficking is also increasing in South Korea. The number of individuals attempting to smuggle marijuana into the country rose by 37 percent between January-May 2013 from the year before. The amount of the marijuana seized by 600 percent.

Source:  “Drug smuggling on the rise in S Korea,” Asia One, June 20, 2013.

According to the National Assembly Budget Office, the volume of money that is illegally gambled in South Korea is estimated to be $67.3 Billion (75 Trillion South Korean Won).

The volume of wages placed in illegal gambling operations in South Korea increased by 41 percent since 2008.

The legitimate size of the gambling industry in the country is $15.2 Billion, or roughly 22 percent the size of the illegal gambling industry.

Source:  “Illegal Gambling Industry in Excess of 75 Tril. Won…NA Budget Office,” Korea IT Times, May 22, 2013.