The 2011 South Korean box-office hit "Nameless Gangster: Rules of Time" was a crime movie against the backdrop of Busan in the 1980s. It realistically depicts the story of a gangster and a corrupt public official who join hands to enjoy their heydays in the 1980s before betraying each other following the "war on crimes" in early 1990s. Actor Choi Min-sik plays the role of Choi Ik-hyeon, a corrupt ex-customs official. The film has a scene in which Choi threatens his opponent with a pistol. But it was unloaded. In South Korea, there has been no reported case in which a gang member actually fired a gun.
In Busan, there have been about 10 cases in which Russian sailors were caught smuggling firearms into South Korea. Twenty years ago, the black-market price for a pistol and 100 bullets was 100,000 won (about 100 U.S. dollars). There are rampant rumors that Russian mafia groups are trafficking firearms in Busan as the center. Probably, there are some South Korean crime organizations armed with pistols. In 2003, a Russian mafia group`s hitman assassinated a senior member of a rival gang in Busan and ran away. However, domestic gangs shun the use of guns, which could spell trouble.
A senior member of a crime organization based in Gwangju has recently been indicted on charge of hiding a pistol and 30 rounds of bullets in his house. It is the first case in which a senior member of a major crime organization getting caught for possessing a pistol. "We are looking closely into whether this signals the advent of crime gangs armed with guns."
In 1998, the Seoul District Prosecutors` Office came down on a group for the smuggling and trafficking of firearms. A member of a crime organization in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province was caught after buying a firearm. It was the first case in which a modified foreign firearm was sold to a gang.
South Korea is no longer immune to international criminal activities. In addition to the Russian mafia, China`s Triads and Japan`s Yakuza, new crime groups from Southeast Asian countries are expanding their territories. They often join hands with Korean crime organizations in order to expand their influence. It is possible that firearms smuggled by foreign gangs end up in the hands of domestic crime organizations. Pistol-wielding gangs are very dangerous not only to citizens but also to law enforcement officers.