South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Kim Jae-shin has challenged Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to prove his claim some Korean embassy officials were connected to a Korean mafia group allegedly operating in the country.
Kim criticized Aguirre’s remarks on Thursday in a Senate investigation on the abduction and killing of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, in which the Justice secretary said he received information some Korean embassy officials had links to supposed mafiosi here.
The ambassador said Aguirre’s remarks “put the embassy and its officials in a bad light”—which the Justice secretary personally heard from Kim on Friday—as the Koreans sought to clarify Jee’s possible collaboration with the mafia.
On Saturday, Aguirre admitted Kim delivered the embassy’s statement to him personally, but downplayed the ambassador’s remarks, saying it was just a misunderstanding.
He also said the Koreans gave the National Bureau of Investigation the go-ahead to pursue the Korean mafia angle in Jee’s killing.
The Justice secretary said that when the South Korean Embassy released its statement, Kim also asked for an appointment with him, and eventually was able to clarify what he meant about his remarks during the Senate hearing.
“The Korean Ambassador, Consul-General, and the Police Attaché and I, with Undersecretary Raymund Mecate and some Bureau of Immigration officials, discussed the matter [Friday] afternoon at the DoJ,” Aguirre confirmed.
“I explained to them the reason behind my statements, and it helped in clearing the apparent misunderstanding regarding my statements at the Senate hearing,” Aguirre added.
Still, the embassy also denied that Korean officials asked Aguirre to stop pursuing the Korean mafia angle, a claim the Justice secretary stood by when asked about it by the media on Friday.
“They told me to stop pursuing the Korean mafia angle,” Aguirre had said.
However, the embassy statement said: “The Korean Embassy regrets very much that, based on wrong and unfounded information, Secretary Aguirre made some misleading statements involving so-called Korean mafia at the Senate hearing on Feb. 23, 2017.”
The embassy cited another meeting on Feb. 13 with Aguirre, along with its consul general, a police attachè, and Jee’s widow Choi Kyung Jin, assuring Aguirre that Jee “lived an honest life as a conscientious businessman, having no connections at all with any malicious Korean persons.”
“The officials also recalled the Philippine National Police’s consistent confirmations that this case has nothing to do with a Korean mafia,” the statement added. “Then, Secretary Aguirre promised the DoJ would not pursue any longer the angle of possible linkage with a Korean mafia in its future investigations into the case.”
Choi, the embassy said, also denied another Aguirre statement that Jee was kidnapped twice before.
“The Embassy has every confidence that no official has been compromised by Korean mafia. The Embassy asks for any concrete evidence that substantiates his remarks. It would take full responsibility for it, if any,” the Korean statement said.
In the end, Aguirre said Kim allowed the NBI to investigate the Korean mafia further.
“The Ambassador gave the NBI the go signal to investigate any involvement of the Korean Mafia, if there is any, in the abduction and killing of Mr. Jee Ick Joo,” Aguirre said.
Jee was abducted from his residence on Oct. 18, 2016 by a group of policemen who were supposedly on an anti-drug operation. He was allegedly strangled to death on the same day just outside the national police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Choi, his widow, claimed Jee’s kidnappers demanded for a P5-million ransom without her knowing her husband was already dead.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.