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Saturday, May 15, 2004

(Small businesses) Extorting a street stall keeper

One Mr Chông has extorted 100 million won (€ 67000) from a street stall keeper nojômsang Mun during the last three years, tells Hankyoreh in an article about the arrest of Mr Chông. Mr Mun had started a "hot bar" (hatpa, see photo) stall in Myeongdong in a site where Chông had kept his own street stall earlier; Chông saw an opportunity and went to visit Mun with another street stall keeper, demanding either that Mun pay instead the debt taken by Chông of 70 million W or pay Chông 25% of his sales. Chông and his associate also beat up Mun. Charisse, "site tax" was the pretext under which the extortion happened.
Mun ended up paying Chông 2-3 million won a month, which added up to more than 100 million in three years.

This Mr Chông doesn't seem to have been a gangster (kkangp'ae) even though he has clearly followed the example of what is widely told to be happening elsewhere. Being formally illegal, it's difficult for the street stall keepers to seek legal protection (and they can't know on whose side the police is). This extortionist (?) Chông was also in one sense acting according to common practise: street stall sites are traded like any other formal shop space with premiums (kwôlligûm) and all. We don't know for sure whether Mr Mun earned all the money he got extorted by the street stall, but it's a lot of money, and will also add to the talk that some street stall keepers after all can earn a lot.

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