PRESIDENT Duterte said the Korean mafia is “strongest” in Cebu where it engages in illegal drugs and prostitution.

Police regional chief Noli Taliño said his initial talk with Central Visayas law-enforcement groups indicated they hadn’t “monitored” the presence of a Korean mafia.

PDEA regional chief Yogi Felimon Ruiz said he had heard about its presence since 2014 but could cite only an arrest of a South Korean last year (for failure to attend court hearing on illegal possession of shabu).


Neither Taliño nor Ruiz could show with solid facts the operation of a Korean mafia: Taliño more cautious than Ruiz in lending support to Duterte’s strong assertion that there is a Korean mafia in Cebu. “Ask anyone,” the president said. “Let’s validate the report,” Taliño said.

Then came the denial of Consul Yong Sung Lee, police attache of the South Korean consulate in Cebu, who said there have been only “gangsters” who fled from prosecution back home.

Mafia members and gangsters are not the same, we are told. Gangsters or “kkangpae” are plain street thugs. Mafia members are “geondai” or “jopok.” Mafia is organized; street hoods are not.

From the consul’s explanation, those who came were fugitives from complaints of estafa and carnapping.


We don’t have to believe at once their versions of the mafia story: from the president to local law enforcers and Korean consulate officials. Each one has a reason for not giving the public the real score.

Consulate officials don’t want to offend Cebuanos, host to some 25,000 South Koreans staying or visiting here.

Neither would they scare their compatriots about home-grown hooligans transported to Cebu.

Be wary

The mafia story could be a red herring, to boost the alternative theory that it was the Korean mafia, not police rogues, who kidnapped South Korean businessman Jee Ick-Joo for ransom and killed him inside Camp Crame.

Their respective agenda should prompt us to be wary until the facts are in. It took the FBI 37 years to admit the presence of Italian mafia in the U.S. Meantime, suspend belief.