South Korea’s National Police Agency Targets Gen Z and Millennials in Crackdown on Organized Crime

25 December 2023

Younger criminals shift focus from violence to fraud and gambling crimes

South Korea’s National Police Agency (NPA) has intensified its efforts to combat organized crime rings across the country. In recent months, authorities have made a significant number of arrests, with a notable trend emerging among the offenders. The majority of those apprehended are members of Generation Z (Gen Z) or millennials, aged below 30. This shift in the demographics of criminals has also brought about a change in the nature of the crimes being committed, as younger individuals increasingly engage in fraud and gambling activities rather than resorting to violence.

Changing Trends in Crime

Law enforcement sources have observed a distinct shift in criminal behavior among younger generations. According to The Korea Herald, the NPA reported that between August 7 and December 16, a total of 1,183 members of organized crime rings were arrested nationwide. Among these arrests, 888 were classified as “MZ gangsters,” referring to individuals below the age of 30.

The crimes committed by these younger criminals have evolved, with a growing prevalence of online gambling, scams, and fraud. The Korea Herald further notes that nearly 40% of the charges involved “intricate/business-type illegal activities,” such as operating online gambling platforms. In contrast, just over 21% of the charges were related to extortion and violence.

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Changing Dynamics of Organized Crime

A workshop organized to assist prosecutors in handling these cases shed light on the evolving dynamics of organized crime. The Times reported that MZ gangsters now form alliances based on profit rather than traditional factional affiliations. This shift in motivation has prompted authorities to reevaluate the definition of organized crime rings and develop new strategies to combat such crimes.

The NPA spokesperson emphasized the agency’s commitment to strengthening the crackdown on gangs associated with the MZ generation. Efforts will focus on establishing a more effective crime response system and enhancing investigative capabilities to address various forms of organized crime involving young offenders.

South Korea’s Fight Against Organized Crime

South Korea has been actively combating organized crime since the 1990s, aiming to eliminate all mafia-style groups from the country. The Organized Crime Index highlights the success of these efforts, stating that the remaining organizations are small and lack territorial control or engage in extensive violence.

However, foreign crime syndicates continue to play a significant role in the criminal landscape. Mainland Chinese Triads, Japanese Yakuza, and Russian mafia gangs are all involved in various criminal activities within South Korea.

Conclusion:

South Korea’s National Police Agency’s recent crackdown on organized crime has revealed a concerning trend: a significant number of arrests are now comprised of Gen Z and millennial offenders. These young criminals have shifted away from violence and are increasingly engaging in fraud and gambling crimes. The changing dynamics of organized crime necessitate a reevaluation of law enforcement strategies and a focus on establishing a more effective crime response system. As South Korea continues its fight against organized crime, the involvement of foreign crime syndicates further underscores the need for comprehensive and collaborative efforts to maintain law and order in the country.

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