THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Central Visayas confirmed the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte last Saturday night in Davao City that a Korean mafia is allegedly operating an illegal drug trade and a prostitution ring in Cebu.

PDEA-Central Visayas Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz said that he knew about this information since 2009 when he was still the deputy director.

“We caught a Korean national last September who posed as a tourist guide and was also found to be selling drugs among his clients. That is an indicator that there is a syndicate moving underground in Cebu City,” Ruiz told Superbalita.

Ruiz said that PDEA-Central Visayas arrested Kim See Woong, 47, alias Kuma, by virtue of an arrest warrant last September 17, 2016 for failing to attend his court hearings.

Woong was arrested last January 9, 2011 for possession of illegal drugs but made bail. However, Kim did not attend his court hearings, so a warrant was released in April 2015 for his arrest.

Woong had a working visa and stayed in Barangay Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City for 12 years before he was caught last year for offering shabu to his clients.

Ruiz believed that the supply of shabu in South Korea came from Cebu, which is worth 30,000 to 40,000 dollars per kilo. When it arrives in Korea, Ruiz said the price of shabu would rise up to 100,000 to 130,000 dollars.

“We are the exporter, not the importer. Drugs are expensive there because their law enforcers are effective, which made it hard for the syndicate,” said Ruiz.

Ruiz said any quantity of drugs that managed to evade the authorities’ radar, its value doubles there.

He said that his group is having a hard time penetrating the Korean group because they can’t find a Korean decoy to help in the operation.

“It’s quite tedious and difficult for our part,” he said.

Duterte, in a press conference in Davao City over the weekend, said that the Korean mafia, which reportedly controls a drug trade and prostitution business, is strongest in Cebu.

“I’ve always heard from intelligence sources that in Cebu, with all due respect to the South Korean Government, they hold the drugs and prostitution,” the President said in a press briefing after he visited his parents’ grave in Davao City.

Sought for comment, Consul General Oh Sung-Yong said that he did not hear any report of a Korean mafia since he was assigned in Cebu last year.

“I don’t know what was the source? If I can get any detail information about it, then we will help for Philippine police to wipe out the mafia in Cebu,” said Sung-Yong.

Calls were made to Police Regional Office (PRO)-Central Visayas Director Noli Taliño for his comment but these were left unanswered.

The mafia is allegedly targeting the Korean community to pressure them into giving money, Ruiz said.

“They are more concentrated in Korean communities, they also victimized South Korean businessmen who legally own businesses here in Cebu,” he said.

In the statistics provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) in 2013, the South Korean population in Cebu is estimated to be 25,000 and it continues to grow.

The South Korean Consulate, according to Ruiz, is an active partner of the PDEA-Central Visayas in their anti-illegal drug campaign.

He said the consular office often visits the agency to conduct meetings about their operations.

On the allegedly prostitution ring, Ruiz admitted that Duterte’s information is broader than what he has gathered.

On May 21, 2015, agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Central Visayas arrested four Korean nationals for allegedly running a sex-tourism firm.

Ji Wongun, Lee Dong Jun, Kim Jung Hyun, and Jeung Gangil were allegedly part of a human trafficking syndicate operating in Cebu. The group allegedly offered Filipinas to their fellow Koreans for sex.

Following the President’s pronouncement, the PDEA-Central Visayas is investigating crimes which may be linked to South Koreans in Cebu.

Recently, the Philippine National Police was under fire after the death of Korean businessman, Jee Ick Joo, who was strangled inside the headquarters in Camp Crame by suspects, who turned out to be police officers.

It led to the suspension of the anti-drug operating powers of the police force.

Duterte also suspended the authority of the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct anti-illegal drug operations.