By Kim Rahn
More than 175 centimeters in height; good-looking in appearance; robust health; and no scars on the face.
These are not the criteria in recruiting cadets or bodyguards ― they are requirements for gangsters. Organized crime rings these days select their members according to their well-groomed appearance in order to avoid public and police suspicion, police said.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency recently rounded up an Itaewon-based gang ― 13 members were arrested and 71 others were booked without physical detention for organizing the crime ring and taking money from the owner of a building by intervening in a building redevelopment project.
Police said the gang's criteria to select members was as strict as those for cadets, as it wanted ``excellent members'' to expand their ``business'' nationwide.
``However good at fighting and however loyal to the organization, those having scars on the face or having faces that give an unpleasant feeling could not join the group,'' a police officer said.
After passing the ``interview,'' they had to undergo two to four years of rigorous training to become ``family members,'' police said.
In a training camp in Itaewon, the gangster candidates were trained on how to use weapons, how to threaten people, and how to gather promptly at a designated and time when their boss called ― those passing the training courses were eligible to become members.
``The members were also banned from drinking at their hang outs, because if they had quarrel with citizens, it could put them at risk of exposure,'' the officer said.
The crime ring's efforts to keep a ``good'' image were part of their plan to disguise their illegal businesses, such as managing illegal bars or gaming parlors, as legal ones, he said.
``In the past, we could distinguish gangsters by their appearance, but gangsters these days have ordinary features and behavior like ordinary citizens. So it is not easy for us to detect bars operated by gangs,'' the officer said.
The boss and other leaders of the group visited gangs in other regions including Gwangju, Busan and Daejeon several times a year, who ``entertained'' them, police said.