National Weird

Man faces criminal charges for keeping lost wallet

A Korean man picks up a wallet in a parking lot in Daechi-dong, Seoul on Dec. 20, 2014
Lee Tae-hoon
Written by Lee Tae-hoon

A Korean man is facing criminal charges for picking up a wallet of an American national and failing to return it to the rightful owner, a police officer said Monday.

“In Korea, you are required to return lost items to the owner,” a police officer told The Korea Observer.

She stressed that those who do not return lost property can face a maximum sentence of one year in prison or a fine of up to 3 million won.

“Even if the wallet doesn’t contain valuable items, you can still face charges if you don’t make efforts to return it to the owner,” the officer said.

However, Paul Chung, a Korean American running an English academy in Seoul, is baffled that police are pursuing a criminal case against the Korean man, while making little effort to return his wallet which contained a debit card, a driver’s license and 150,000 won.


The Korean man drives away from the parking lot on Dec. 20, 2014

“I have gone to the police station on January 5th, 12th and 29th but there has been no response,” he said, noting that he submitted CCTV footage that clearly shows a Korean man picking up his wallet and leaving the scene in a Hyundai Genesis sedan whose number plate is clearly visible.

“It is upsetting. This should be an easy case for them to just call the guy and have him call me. But they keep giving me the run around.”

Frustrated by police’s lukewarm response, Paul posted the CCTV footage of the Korean man leaving the premises with his wallet with the title, “Help Me Catch a Thief” on January 31.

“The KOREAN POLICE, even with the evidence, have done nothing. Help me catch this PRICK!” he wrote in the Youtube post.

Upon an inquiry made on his behalf by The Korea Observer, Kim Bo-ra, a police officer now in charge of Paul’s case, said that she was unable to respond to Paul’s case in a timely manner due to some computer errors in the system and that the owner of the car turned out to be much older than the man in the CCTV footage.

“The car appears to belong to the father of the man who picked up the wallet,” she said.

“As there is clear evidence and that he wrongfully took the wallet, we must file a criminal charge against him.”

Lee Eun-joo, a Seoul citizen, was dumbfounded to hear the news.

“What’s the wait? The man would have just returned the wallet if the police made a simple phone call,” she said.

“Moreover, the man, who is now facing a criminal charge, could have simply thrown away the wallet assuming that no one was looking for it.”

Police officers say the best way to return a wallet is either dropping it into a postbox or going to the police station to report it.

About the author

Lee Tae-hoon

Lee Tae-hoon

Lee Tae-hoon is publisher at The Korea Observer. He previously worked for the Korea Times and Arirang TV. You can reach him at

  • JMS

    slow news day?

    • James

      This is valid news. Police inaction, a frustrated member of the public, and informing the public about the Korean custom of returning a wallet (i.e., drop it in the person’s post box). Sure, it will never make national headlines, but we will cover news that others neglect.

      • smithington

        It’s valid news, it’s a bullshit title.

        • James

          Thanks for bringing that to our attention.

          • smithington

            A competent journalist would never have run that in the first place. second graders no better than that.

          • James

            I am sure you mean know and not “no.” Ditto^ Everyone makes errors, including you it seems.

          • smithington

            I’m not the one claiming to be an international investigative journalist, an academic, or a professional. This is a comment section, not the actual article. You really are worse than a second grader.

      • JMS

        Didn’t say it was not valid. But still my question stands. Just FYI most legit respected “news” sites/blogs don’t usually feel the need to reply to everyone that may question them. If you are confident in your article content then there is no need to debate those that think it may or not be.

        • James

          Sure, but we are open to any constructive criticism and are a relatively new site. Consequently, at this stage, we are learning and willing to engage for our benefit, the readers, and the commenters.

  • smithington

    clickbait titles, another fine moment in journalism. What was this whole thing about doing better again? He is facing criminal charges for failing to return it, not for picking it up.

  • Small twon

    Lee Tae-hoon prove himself again . His daddy and mommy must be very proud to raise such a fine gentleman.

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