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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Taedo (大盜) becomes sodo (小盜)


Cho Se-hyôn going to trial in 1983
In the late 1970s and early 1980s and it was possible and I guess it still is to become a sort of a people's champion by relieving rich people of their money and diamonds by thievery. It is recalled that the exploits of taedo (大盜, "big thief") Cho Se-hyông in the late Park Chung-hee and early Chun Doo-hwan era, directed at rich people's houses and belongings, woke sympathies among the "ordinary people" (seomin), as the riches that he stole were often perceived as not rightfully earned. Mr Cho was in the end arrested in 1983 and sent to jail for 15 years. In late 1998 he walked free, and proclaimed that he had become a believing Christian, and his life seemed so turned around that he was employed by a security company and went around lecturing about preventing crime. His release was a quite a big news back then, and I guess the bad state of economy and increased differences of wealth contributed to the newsworthiness of the release of the former "big thief".

The next time Mr Cho appeared in the news was in early 2001 when he had been arrested in Japan for burglary, and got 3.5 years. After his release he returned to Korea and continued his religious activity, until the news yesterday told that Mr Cho had once again been arrested for burglary (Chosun Ilbo). It was told that Cho shouldn't have any economic reason for burglary as his wife, whom he married around '99, makes enough to support them. A psychologist that Chosun quotes thinks that Cho is an incurably habitual burglar, who can't let a chance pass.

Hankyoreh tells today that the reason Mr Cho gave for the recent burglary he was arrested of was that he needed money in order to retribute to the Japanese police who shot him in the leg when he was arrested in Japan in '01. When arrested Mr Cho, aged 67, claimed that he is homeless Pak Sông-gyu, aged 48, who did the burglary in order to get money to start a street stall business (nojômsang). The young constable did not recognize Mr Cho, but his older collegue with a longer experience felt something familiar in the arrested person, whose identity they could confirm with fingerprints.

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