Is the Philippines dangerous for Korean tourists?By Nathan Schwartzman Jul 24, 2012 12:43PM UTC
Original article in Korean is at this link.
The number of mothers who lose their sons in the Philippines has increased in Korea in the past 10 months. In June one father placed a post titled “I want to find my son” on an internet forum for people who have been in accidents in the Philippines. This is the story of the family of 32-year-old Mr. Hong, who disappeared in September of last year while on a five-night, six-day backpacking trip in the Philippines. Three days before he was to return his family received a phone call. Speaking in an urgent tone, their son said “I need settlement money, please send ten million won (US$8,725).” They sent the money but have not heard from their son since that afternoon. His parents continue to make inquiries at the Philippine Embassy in Korea and with Korean prosecutors, searching for his son’s whereabouts. Mr. Hong said that “so far I have contacted the Embassy but not received even a phone call.”
In the Philippines Koreans have been disappearing or have been murdered. On the 16th the Korea Institute for Criminology (한국형사정책연구원) published a study of crimes against Koreans in the Philippines from 2006 to 2010, according to which, in the past five years, 95 people’s whereabouts in the Philippines are unknown and 30 have been murdered. 45 have fallen prey to the so-called “kidnap business”, having been kidnapped and freed after a ransom was paid. KIC Chairman Jang Jun-oh said that “there are very few cases of Koreans disappearing or being murdered in other Southeast Asian nations… there are an increasing number of crimes linked to factors such as gun ownership.”
The victims are diversifying, from businessmen with money to international students and missionary teachers. Last year Ms. Kim, who was then 23 years old and a medical student at a women’s university in the Philippines, was found dead in a hotel in Manila. An employee opened the door and entered the room to find a dead 26-year-old Filipino man lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling. The two had gunshot wounds. Local police believe that the Filipino man killed Ms. Kim and then committed suicide because it would have been difficult for a stranger to enter the room with a master key. However, the Korean Embassy said that “because the Filipino man was neatly lying down facing the ceiling it is not possible for it to have been suicide” and raised doubts about the police investigation.
In 2011, 34-year-old Mr. Kang was a tourist in the Philippines when two local women came to talk to him as he sat on a bench in a public park, and then he left with them. After two bottles of beer in a seaside restaurant he passed out and woke up to find 2.5 million won (US$2,180) was missing from his bank account.
In February of this year 57-year-old Mr. Nam was kidnapped in the Philippines along with local police and his guide, then released after payment of a 24 million won ransom. He said that “I still cannot forget the moment when a gun was pointed at me.”
An increasing number of Koreans are going to the Philippines for tourism and language study. In 2011 the Philippines Department of Tourism conducted a study which found that there had been 840,000 Korean tourists. In 2007 Korea became the nation’s largest source of foreign tourists. Lee Sang-yun, secretary of the overseas citizens department with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that “working with local police, we have created a department dedicated to crimes involving Koreans and are considering establishing another consulate general.”