Korean Mafia and Gangsters You Never Knew Exist!

korean mafia

Would you believe if I tell you there are Korean mafia and gangster exist today in South Korea?

While it’s true Korea is one of the safest country in Asia, gangsters and mafia is still exist in this wonderful country.

I take time to do some research and discover interesting things about Korean mafia.

Let’s take a look at various types of Korean mafia and gangster exist in Korea today.

Table of Contents

History of Korean Mafia and Gangsters

Korean mafia and gangsters used to be a freedom fighter during Japanese colonial period.

Most of early Korean mafia fought hard against Yakuza and all the corrupt racist Japanese police.

Whenever Yakuza made a mess, Korean gangsters will always be the black sheep.

Back then, Korean gangsters became a symbol of resistance against Japanese oppression.

When Japanese surrender and mark the end of World War II, local gangsters ended up worked for politicians.

The first president of South korea use their service to intimidate it’s political enemy – with the exchange of money and position for the Korean mafia leader.

The good news is you won’t even meet Korean mafia or gangster if you stay in the light – out of politics or any underworld transactions like money laundry.

Korean Gangsters Classes

You might say, ‘Gangsters are gangsters, all are the same’ – I agree.

However, there are different types and levels to Korean gangsters you might want to know.

1. Kkangpae/Ggangpae (깡패)

Korean Gangster

Kkangpae is the common street gangsters we know – those troublemakers with no organised groups.

If you love to watch Korean gangster movies, then you know what Kkangpae is like.

Basically, Kkangpae is a title for members of unorganised street gangs.

They are usually recognised by their tattoos which represents each gangs symbol.

2. Jopok (조폭/조직폭력배) / Geondal (건달)

korean gangster movies

Credit to tVn

Jopok is a shortened form of ‘Jojik Poklyeokbae 조직 폭력배‘ which means ‘organised violence group‘.

Some people call them ‘Kkakttooggi 깍뚜기‘ due to their hair style that resemble ‘Kkakttogi 깍뚜기‘ – type of Korean kimchi made of diced radish. 

You might notice in some Korean gangster movies, someone refer as ‘Huisawon 회사원‘ or  ‘Jojigwon 조직원‘ which means salaryman.

They are the backbone of Korean underground industry just like in any other countries.

Lots of nightclubs and karaokes are owned by Jopok groups.

It is safe to say that Jopok is Korean mafia – similar to Yakuza in Japan.

Other Korean Gangsters

Here are other small little gangsters that exist in South Korea, from school gangsters to traditional market sharks.

1. Iljin (일진)

korean mafia

Credit to Koreaherald

Iljin refer to the strongest fighters in school.

It can be a man/woman or a group of delinquent punks in school.

They are mostly good at fighting and also those who love to bully people.

If they are really good, they might be recruited to join Jopok 조폭 – organised Korean gangsters.

2. Sachae Eopja (사채업자)

korean mafia

Sachae Eopja refer to a loan thugs.

They are those who makes a living by lending someone a sum of money and getting it back at high interest rate.

You can easily spot them at traditional markets by their mini loan books.

3. Yangachi (양아치)

Korean Gangster

Yangachi is more of a low-tiered or gangsters wanna be.

You can call them a street thugs – the lowest level of gangsters.

Someone who thinks they are a tough guy or girl, a rebellious person who doesn’t obey the society’s rules.

Actually this word is also used as a joke.

For example, when people dye their hair bright yellow, Korean will jokingly asked ‘Yangachinya 양아치냐‘.

Sum Up

It’s worth noting that organized crime in Korea has evolved over the years to encompass large powerful groups who often reside outside Seoul.

Just like in any other countries, Korean gangsters involved in things like extortion, gambling, drugs, adult entertainment as well as nightclubs, and bars.

I personally never had encounter with any of these bully or gangsters as I travel around, so there’s nothing to be worried about.

Have you ever encounter a Korean mafia and gangsters as you travel South Korea?

Let me know in the comment sections below!

Check out our another article:

Korean mafia
Korean Gangster

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