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.
“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.