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October 17, 2011 12:08 PM   Subscribe

People in Korea now have a new vocation available to them: snitching on other civilians for cash payouts from the government.
posted by reenum (83 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
SOUTH Korea, of course... (like they have money in the DPRK)

“Some people hate us,” Mr. Im said. “But we’re only doing what the law encourages.”

The opportunities are everywhere: a factory releasing industrial waste into a river, a building owner keeping an emergency exit locked, doctors and lawyers not providing receipts for payment so that they can underreport their taxable income.

Mr. Im’s pet target is people who burn garbage at construction sites, a violation of environmental laws.


My outrage direction sensor is confused!
posted by Artw at 12:12 PM on October 17, 2011 [18 favorites]


Mr. Im’s pet target is people who burn garbage at construction sites, a violation of environmental laws.

I'm OK with this!

It's cute how the media conflates "businesses and corporations" and "citizens."
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:14 PM on October 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


This would be more properly Stasi like...

“Once, someone asked me to report an illegal restaurant inside a national park,” he said. “It turned out that the guy himself was running an illegal restaurant right next door.”
posted by Artw at 12:14 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, this is how they flag posts in Korea?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:16 PM on October 17, 2011


Law says: Don't be a dick.

Government says: We'll pay you to catch people or corporations or the government being dicks.

I'm... I'm... remarkably okay with this.
posted by Mooski at 12:16 PM on October 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


1984!
posted by Artw at 12:18 PM on October 17, 2011


I suppose strangers might be fair game, but as good Confucians, you mustn't grass up your dad:
1. The Duke of Sheh informed Confucius, saying, "Among us here there are those who may be styled upright in their conduct. If their father have stolen a sheep, they will bear witness to the fact."
2. Confucius said, "Among us, in our part of the country, those who are upright are different from this. The father conceals the misconduct of the son, and the son conceals the misconduct of the father. Uprightness is to be found in this."
posted by Abiezer at 12:18 PM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Qui tam
posted by exogenous at 12:19 PM on October 17, 2011


In a country where corporate whistle-blowing is virtually unheard of — such actions are seen as a betrayal of the company

Heh. This is sounding better by the second.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:19 PM on October 17, 2011


The outsourcing of law enforcement has also been something of a boon for local governments. They say that they can save money on hiring officers, and that the fines imposed on offenders generally outstrip the rewards paid to informers. (The reward for reporting illegal garbage dumping: about $40. The fine: about 10 times as much.)

Clearly, there is a need for a paparazzi's union.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:20 PM on October 17, 2011


In 2005, he noticed that virtually all coin-operated coffee machines in Internet game parlors he visited lacked proper sanitary inspection tags. So he called hundreds of Internet parlors, telling them, “I left my wallet near your coffee machine,” to find out which ones had such a machine. He compiled a list and reported all of them, collecting $2,600.

Brilliant. Also, I hate this.
posted by resurrexit at 12:20 PM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've passed by NYC Crimestoppers posters too often to have too much outrage over this.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:21 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Soviets had a similar system back in the day to "knock" on your fellow comrades if you(or anyone for that matter) deemed them not red enough. Those who got "knocked" on would simply disappear.
posted by SEOdegreeo at 12:21 PM on October 17, 2011


Yeah, though to clarify, that's ad hominem thinking: The Soviet system differed, at least so far as we can tell from the reporting on the RoK, in that it had citizens reporting on things that shouldn't be crimes, like "not being Red enough." I'm fine with the RoK paying people to report illegal trash burning. It's a little weird from my cultural bias, but it seems pretty far removed from what made the Soviet system bad, and conflating the two seems unhelpful.
posted by klangklangston at 12:26 PM on October 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


The Soviets had a similar system back in the day to "knock" on your fellow comrades if you(or anyone for that matter) deemed them not red enough. Those who got "knocked" on would simply disappear

Yes, but this isn't about turning in political enemies of the state. This is aimed towards helping enforce environmental and anti-corruption laws, in a society where, as the article notes, corporate whistle-blowing is non-existent. These breathless comparisons to the Soviets or the Stasi are just silly.

This post is written in the ridiculous reddit-baiting libertarian outrage style, but this is a fine idea if it means corporate criminals are caught or corruption is outed.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:26 PM on October 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


If they did this in NYC, the city government would be bankrupt in a day, there would be a sea of chaotic fingerpointing, marshal law would have to be put into effect. I don't necessarily agree or disagree, but I do find it quite amusing.
posted by Yellow at 12:27 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of a goody-two-shoes myself. I wish I could find a way to be compensated for it. :(
posted by mudpuppie at 12:27 PM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


As long as they don't end up like the US, where the informants just start making shit up and the government enforcement agencies HELP in creating and prosecuting false cases just for the sake of looking good.
posted by yeloson at 12:28 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone hear that This American Life story where the guy made his living finding companies with inadequate disabled parking and suing them. Doesn't sound so different to this. If you're outraged, then know that the USA has similar structures currently in play.
posted by seanyboy at 12:29 PM on October 17, 2011


Law says: Don't be a dick.

Government says: We'll pay you to catch people or corporations or the government being dicks.
Yes, because obviously all the laws ever written only have to do with being a dick and there are no laws ever that could possibly be used to do anything other then prevent people from being dicks.
posted by delmoi at 12:29 PM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


After 9/11, I was waiting to hear about the first time someone pissed at an ethnically-suspect-looking person, in a road-rage, called in a fake tip and got people killed in a shoot first, then look for evidence raid.

This sounds more akin to the way things should work.

The IRS pays a bounty for turning in tax cheats. If only I knew some multi-billionaire who cheated on his taxes, and gave me documentation to prove it with =p
posted by nomisxid at 12:29 PM on October 17, 2011


The smartphone-enabled social network won't just bring about the fall of tyranny, it may bring about a cultural shift not known since The Enlightenment.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:31 PM on October 17, 2011


If they did this in NYC, the city government would be bankrupt in a day, there would be a sea of chaotic fingerpointing, marshal law would have to be put into effect. I don't necessarily agree or disagree, but I do find it quite amusing.

Wait--so they don't have CrimeStoppers in NY?

Oh, no, yeah. They do.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:35 PM on October 17, 2011


And, in the US, too, if you're the one who brings a qui tam action in a lucrative enough False Claims Act case, well, that'll set you up for awhile, anyway. But I have trouble feeling sorry for any of the companies that're doing the sorts of things that turn into lucrative False Claims Act cases.
posted by gracedissolved at 12:36 PM on October 17, 2011


These paparazzi better be careful when reporting on irregularities at their local medical clinics, or they'll run out of places to go get stitches.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:36 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If they did this in NYC, the city government would be bankrupt in a day

Because laws of arithmetic don't work in NYC?
posted by vidur at 12:36 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


And isn't "snitching" just a wee bit editorial for the front page? I know, I know--flagged and moving on...
posted by saulgoodman at 12:37 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


marshal law would have to be put into effect

For some reason I hear him whooping like Ric Flair in my head.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:37 PM on October 17, 2011


After 9/11, I was waiting to hear about the first time someone pissed at an ethnically-suspect-looking person, in a road-rage, called in a fake tip and got people killed in a shoot first, then look for evidence raid.

There are tons and tons of examples of 'ethnic looking' people being harassed and inconvenienced. Just last month three brown people (two Indians and a half Arab half Jewish women) were thrown off a plane and interrogated, despite not having done anything at all to arouse suspicions except for the fact both men had gone to the bathroom. The three had never met each-other before and simply sat next to each-other due to random seat assignment. Right after 9/11 there was the story about the Arab guys who got arrested in Florida because someone in a diner overheard them talking about 'bringing it down' when they were talking about lowering the suspension on a car.
posted by delmoi at 12:38 PM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is aimed towards helping enforce environmental and anti-corruption laws

Perhaps, but what happens when say, a situation like the Acorn 'scandal' (except not completely fabricated) occurs where people are discovered bending the rules a bit with regard to things like taxation and whatnot to help disadvantaged families and people with criminal records to get social assistance and jobs? People here know quite well how the system in the US (and pretty much most countries for that matter) often can often stand in the way of people getting the help they need and deserve and let them slip through the cracks for any number of reasons. These things can go any number of ways, especially when there is a moral/legal gray area involved.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 12:38 PM on October 17, 2011


ends/means/justify etc.

this seems pretty creepy to me and pretty ripe for abuse
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:39 PM on October 17, 2011


Just last month three brown people (two Indians and a half Arab half Jewish women) were thrown off a plane and interrogated, despite not having done anything at all to arouse suspicions except for the fact both men had gone to the bathroom. The three had never met each-other before and simply sat next to each-other due to random seat assignment.

The woman blogged about her experience here.
posted by vidur at 12:43 PM on October 17, 2011


Creepy as fuck. I'm reminded of those propaganda posters appearing in the background throughout Brazil. I'm generally OK with leaving law enforcement to law enforcement agencies and citizens who aren't lured by the profit motive.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:46 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


a building owner keeping an emergency exit locked

I'd phone Mr.Triangle Shirtwaist and give him 24 hours to fix the problem. If he doesn't, I'd document it and report him to the authorities. That's not snitching, that's putting the police to work to protect innocent people.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:47 PM on October 17, 2011


As long as they don't end up like the US, where the informants just start making shit up and the government enforcement agencies HELP in creating and prosecuting false cases just for the sake of looking good.

Obviously, they need to make "making false reports" and "prosecuting false cases" crimes that they pay people to snitch on!
posted by fings at 12:48 PM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh and I'm sure there were tons of people in East Germany and other places who thought the snitching system was just fine and dandy. People who thought hey, those people shouldn't doing [whatever] in the first place. We hear about the people who didn't like it, because they are the ones with history on their side. But I bet there were lots of people who thought it was a good idea at the time.

On the other hand if it was just limited to violations of various regulations like waste dumping and environmental harm it might not be so bad. After all, the environment itself can't register a complaint. But this system does go after some 'victimless' crimes as well, for example:
Paparazzi usually develop a specialty, for example, going after hakwon, or private cram schools, that charge more than government-set prices. The Education Ministry has paid $2.9 million to paparazzi since 2009, when it began relying on bounty hunters to help tame the ballooning cost of private education — a particular burden for citizens in a country laser-focused on educational achievement.

Called hak-parazzi, these people disguise themselves as parents and approach hakwon managers to ask about prices. They secretly record their conversations with hidden video cameras.

Hakwon owners hate them. “The government unilaterally sets unrealistic prices and then unleashes paparazzi in a witch hunt,” complained Cho Young-hwan, a vice chairman of the Korean Coalition of Hakwon. “This is deeply humiliating and anti-education.”
Despite what you might think about private cram schools, is this really the kind of thing that we need paid government snitches to root out? And what about things like prostitution or drug use? If they can go after cram schools why not more typical vice?
posted by delmoi at 12:48 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very interesting article.

I have pretty mixed feelings about it, but I'm leaning towards thinking this is a good idea. Because there's a financial incentive for catching lawbreakers there should be little discrimination in enforcing the law beyond effort required vs. expected reward. This will likely result in bad and excessive regulation being quickly exposed, as a sufficiently large enough portion of the population gets annoyed enough to organize and push for repeal. In the article, the president of the Coalition of Hakwon claimed the government was fixing unrealistic prices for private education and then going after the emerging black market. Well if the prices were so unrealistic, then strict enforcement of the government's regulations should be driving them out of business. That it isn't doing so suggests that the mandated prices are not all that out of line. Not that I have any sympathy for price fixing, I don't, but if businesses want to claim that they can't stay in business except by breaking the law then these policies should be making that apparent in pretty short order.

There are a lot of crimes that the police will rarely if ever catch, the article's mention of the locked safety door is a good example. I assume that South Korea is like the U.S. with a criminal code that is far too large for anyone to remember. Private law enforcement, and that's what this is, has incentive to look for the inefficiencies in their market. Here that would be trying to find laws that no one else is attempting to enforce. With this policy all of the law gets attention from law enforcement and hopefully as a result, much of it is descarded.

On the other hand, there's no doubt it erodes social trust. And that's not a small thing. I remember seeing billboards in Washington state some years ago encouraging residents to turn in their neighbors if they knew they were growing or perhaps even just had possession of some quantity of weed. There's a lot to be said for minding one's own business. I'd feel a lot better about this if there was no such thing as a consensual crime.
posted by BigSky at 12:50 PM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


fings: "As long as they don't end up like the US, where the informants just start making shit up and the government enforcement agencies HELP in creating and prosecuting false cases just for the sake of looking good.

Obviously, they need to make "making false reports" and "prosecuting false cases" crimes that they pay people to snitch on!
"

Does making a false "making false reports" report need to be specifically prohibited in that case?
posted by mkb at 12:53 PM on October 17, 2011


I'm really curious here: How is this different from Crimestoppers reward programs for "snitching" on your fellow citizens here in the US?

From just this one NY Times piece, it's very hard for me to tell. There are also numerous kinds of programs in the US that offer financial rewards for reporting possible crime.

What's the big deal difference here? The fact that it's happening in Korea? The fact that there are published reward schedules? What's the big difference that makes this more Stasi-like than the status quo in the US or anywhere else?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:53 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps, but what happens when say, a situation like the Acorn 'scandal' (except not completely fabricated) occurs where people are discovered bending the rules a bit with regard to things like taxation and whatnot to help disadvantaged families and people with criminal records to get social assistance and jobs?

They can deal with that when it comes up. Are you really saying that the mere possibility of this happening means such a system shouldn't be tried

Oh and I'm sure there were tons of people in East Germany and other places who thought the snitching system was just fine and dandy. People who thought hey, those people shouldn't doing [whatever] in the first place. We hear about the people who didn't like it, because they are the ones with history on their side. But I bet there were lots of people who thought it was a good idea at the time.

For fuck's sake. If you think calling in a company dumping waste or violating health laws is morally equivalent to ratting out your neighbors to the Stasi for "political crimes", I'm not sure what to say. False equivalence doesn't help anything.

Sure there are legitimate arguments to be made for and against this practice, but too many people are just mindlessly screaming "THIS IS EXACTLY LIKE HITLER/STALIN!"

Despite what you might think about private cram schools, is this really the kind of thing that we need paid government snitches to root out?

I don't know. I don't really know anything about cram schools in Korea, and I'm going to guess you don't either. You don't know the background for the creation of these laws, how they work, or their actual effect. You just have a quote from a cram school industry representative telling us the prices are unfair, but that's kind of like quoting an oil industry rep telling us that ridiculous environmental laws are strangling them.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:55 PM on October 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


What's the big deal difference here? The fact that it's happening in Korea?

I'd not be at all surprised if this is in fact the big deal. Our media is famous for ignoring things over here but making a big deal about it overseas.
posted by odinsdream at 12:56 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm really curious here: How is this different from Crimestoppers reward programs for "snitching" on your fellow citizens here in the US?

Can you make $80k a year reporting stuff for crimestoppers? Seems unlikely.
posted by delmoi at 1:04 PM on October 17, 2011


mudpuppie: I'm kind of a goody-two-shoes myself. I wish I could find a way to be compensated for it. :(

I smell a tourism market: pay for your trip by improving the health and safety for everyone!

seanyboy: Anyone hear that This American Life story where the guy made his living finding companies with inadequate disabled parking and suing them. Doesn't sound so different to this. If you're outraged, then know that the USA has similar structures currently in play.

There's a good chance you're thinking of Thomas Mundy, serial litigant. I haven't heard the episode (assuming that's the one), but I'd guess it's the same guy, though his lawyer has a dozen or so disabled clients provide 90% of his practice.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:04 PM on October 17, 2011


Snitches get riches.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:08 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem with fee incentives on code complaints is that 1) some codes are so complex or could change so that someone could think they're in compliance, when they aren't, and 2) the fees are (most likely) the same for big businesses and small, so someone with a grudge against a messy restaurant could put it out of business, where it could be a minor inconvenience for a bigger company. And if Mr. Mundy's cases are any example, the petty complaints will make the system seem petty, too. I'm guessing there's more money in reporting burning of trash than there is keeping coffee machines up to date with sanitary tags, but if it's so easy to cash in on a string of small offenses, it will seem like a police officer ticketing a jay walker on an empty street: aren't there better uses for the system?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:10 PM on October 17, 2011


Authoritarian's wet dream. Big brother relies on little brother, promotes distrust among neighbors, encourages corruption, nurtures the self-righteous petty tyrant in everyone. Help your fellow man by keeping him honest. It's like turning the country into one large HOA.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:11 PM on October 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


When I was eight years old I ratted out my older sister for driving over the speed limit. Didn't get any money. I was ahead of my time.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:11 PM on October 17, 2011


“I regret the early, desperate days when I reported the misdemeanors of people as poor as I was,”

Critics, however, say the reward program has undermined social trust.


I think these are my concerns with it. He's found a good groove where he reports on criminal corporate behavior that most people are happy to see more enforcement of. But the program is also used by people to be nasty to others, intentionally or not.

OTOH, when someone nearly kills you on the road, and is so oblivious that they don't even realise they nearly killed someone... well no need to pay me - I'd pay the government money to be able to submit proof of the transgression that will get them to take their driving more seriously.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:11 PM on October 17, 2011


What's the big deal difference here?

I suspect that a lot of people have reservations along the lines of this excerpt from the article:

'Critics, however, say the reward program has undermined social trust. “The idea itself is good, but when people make a full-time job of this, it effectively privatizes law enforcement and raises ethical questions,” said Lee Yoon-ho, a professor of police administration at Dongguk University in Seoul.'

Rewards for solving specific crimes are not quite the same thing. That's commonly seen as a necessity for handling that circumstance, somewhat exceptional. When people start making their living from this, they are invested in continually turning over their fellow citizens to be punished at the hands of the state. It's easy to see why they would be characterized as cold blooded and disinterested in the welfare of their neighbors. Privatized law enforcement may have a positive benefit overall but few will think well of those who make it their job.
posted by BigSky at 1:13 PM on October 17, 2011


Related A Softer World
[I only got one law. A kid who tells on another kid is a dead kid.]
posted by filthy light thief at 1:13 PM on October 17, 2011


Yes, because obviously all the laws ever written only have to do with being a dick and there are no laws ever that could possibly be used to do anything other then prevent people from being dicks.

Forgive me; you'll have to point out the words 'all' or 'ever' as they relate to my comment.
posted by Mooski at 1:13 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you live in the US, read up on the FDCPA, FCRA and especially the TCPA, then take out a few small ($100) debts. Store credit and phone bills are a good choice. Refuse to pay. Wait for these debts to circulate between debt collectors. Record your calls (make sure to notify if you are in a two-party state), and keep records of all calls made to your cell. The FDCPA and TCPA are strict liability, with stiff statutory damages per incident, which courts have interpreted to mean per call in the case of the TCPA, and per prohibited uttering in the case of the FDCPA. Hold on to your voicemail messages. There are lots of debt collectors leaving messages that don't comply with how courts have interpreted the FDCPA in Foti v. NCO Financial Systems, Inc. and subsequent case law. The courts have applied a very strict standard to voicemail messages, and it's almost impossible to leave a compliant message, but voicemail is too tempting to debt collectors, so they tickle the dragon's tail anyway. Once you have decent evidence of a violation, file an FDCPA suit. The collection agency will most likely want to settle, unless your claim is clearly without merit. Go ahead and settle, but don't agree to a mutual release, because you want to keep the goose around to lay more golden eggs. Let the burned collector chuck that debt on to the next sucker.
posted by [citation needed] at 1:13 PM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Anyone hear that This American Life story where the guy made his living finding companies with inadequate disabled parking and suing them. Doesn't sound so different to this. If you're outraged, then know that the USA has similar structures currently in play.

That's different because Mundy is initiating the lawsuit himself, rather than making a complaint to a government agency that then decides whether to initiate proceedings. That latter step has the potential to stop cases that aren't in the public interest.
posted by grouse at 1:22 PM on October 17, 2011


I, also, am--surprisingly--pretty OK with this, especially in the corporate and government spheres. I would love it if there was a standing reward of $Big Money to out government corruption, labor law violations, and environmental shenanigans. Frankly, I'm OK with tossed cigarette butts being something to report as well.
posted by maxwelton at 1:24 PM on October 17, 2011


If they did this in NYC, the city government would be bankrupt in a day,

"Tax the rat farms."
posted by quin at 1:24 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Forgive me; you'll have to point out the words 'all' or 'ever' as they relate to my comment.

You said you were okay with "This", the only obvious meaning here is that you mean the policy put down by the South Korean government.

So the only obvious interpretation here is that you do mean "all" of the laws eligible here. If you didn't mean that, then you should really say so.

Now, obviously this can go back in time in order to get people paid cash for reporting on miscegenation laws or something like that. But what about the future?

What would prevent the federal government in the US from setting up a system to catch medical marijuana users or something like that? Would you be OK with that? Would that fall under the "dick" category?
posted by delmoi at 1:30 PM on October 17, 2011


Anyone hear that This American Life story where the guy made his living finding companies with inadequate disabled parking and suing them. Doesn't sound so different to this. If you're outraged, then know that the USA has similar structures currently in play.

Wow. That's a really shitty example, mainly because the ADA only allows damages which result in getting the harm addressed, i.e. putting in markers for disabled parking spots. There's no cash payout to lawyers or even plaintiffs when there are ADA violations, and it's an all-too-common myth that there is such a thing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:31 PM on October 17, 2011


Can you make $80k a year reporting stuff for crimestoppers? Seems unlikely.

The article itself admits it's unlikely in North Korea, too:

Mr. Im, the former English tutor, warns that despite his high earnings, few others make enough to be full-time paparazzi.

I'm not crazy about the idea of people actively snooping into each other looking for crimes they can report for profit either--and there's probably some potential risk of incentivizing people to fake evidence of a crime here (but that's just a matter of getting the risk/reward ratio right by punishing that kind of fraud severely and vigorously).

But I'm still not convinced, based on the NY Times coverage alone, that I know enough about the law to get any more outraged or worried than I already am about more important things (I've got a lot of outrage on my plate already at the moment, so I'm trying to watch my consumption).
posted by saulgoodman at 1:34 PM on October 17, 2011


There's a slippery slope argument to be made (first they came for the trash burners...). I mean, if I were going to get people used to government-prompted snitching, this would be the way to do it -- start them out on uncontroversially unethical as well as illegal behaviour. Do I think that's what's happening? No.

Might be bad policy for privacy reasons, though no government seems especially keen on promoting the idea that privacy is a right.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:40 PM on October 17, 2011


Rewards for solving specific crimes are not quite the same thing.

BigSky: Yeah, I was wondering if that was the implied difference, but then I realized Crimestoppers organizations around the US offer rewards of up to $1,000 for any tips that lead to criminal charges. These reward programs don't seem any different, and Crimestoppers is at least partly publicly funded, too, so I'm still left looking for a handle on this story here...
posted by saulgoodman at 1:42 PM on October 17, 2011


You know what's worse? I hear in the U.S., if someone jumps bail, mercenaries are hired to track them down! Not only is it legal, they made a TV series about it!

Won't ANYBODY think of the poor criminals?
posted by happyroach at 1:47 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aww, it's lovely seeing North and South Korea begin the process of homogenizing their legal systems for an eventual reunification.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:54 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This could go south fast if people found a way to abuse the system. If its well audited and controlled... well damn. Corporations and business aren't so law-proof after all.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:00 PM on October 17, 2011


It's cute how the media conflates "businesses and corporations" and "citizens."

Who do you think runs businesses?
I think Australia had something similar to snitch on people who break water restrictions. And we even had a show called Carbon Cops.
OTOH, this may have a few good outcomes. It's still creepy.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:21 PM on October 17, 2011


"Despite what you might think about private cram schools, is this really the kind of thing that we need paid government snitches to root out? And what about things like prostitution or drug use? If they can go after cram schools why not more typical vice?"

Prostitution is not going to be affected by this — Seoul still has obvious red light districts, and from what I understand, the policy is closer to the old Chicago idea of segregated vice.

And for private cram schools, if there's not enough governmental resources to investigate them, then sure, yeah, let citizens have an incentive to run stings. The private cram schools in Korea are a racket, and they do all sorts of fucked up things to the legitimate work market (like depress legitimate wages, because every teacher is assumed to be able to get an off-the-books position at a cram school). That the cram schools aren't effective is a big part of the problem — basically, they rely on parents competing against each other and being afraid of falling behind. They're rent-seeking on social fears, and often their promised numbers are totally invented.

I'd have no problem rewarding people for reporting things like the scammy YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED popups and creepy "supplement" violations of the FTC that the government has no real resources to control here too. Or, you know, actually having a fully funded enforcement arm for many of the low-level or systemic crimes committed here in the US (I'm looking at you, Wall Street), but since that's more of a pipe dream, and assuming there are various official safeguards against harassment, why not try something like this?

(As a side note, something else that is interesting to me is that littering is included, since there are almost no trash cans in Seoul — I was told to stack my trash neatly, so that one of the senior citizens that patrol with brooms could sweep it up.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:24 PM on October 17, 2011


delmoi: And what about things like prostitution or drug use? If they can go after cram schools why not more typical vice?

As klangklangston just mentioned, I really don't think they're interested in busting dens of prostitution in South Korea. There are indeed red light districts, BUT there are also brothels on almost every fuckin' street that are identified by the dual barber shop poles. These places are frequented by "salary men" after a night of boozing with their co-workers. It's a widely accepted practice because their wives don't want them showing up wasted at 10pm demanding sex.
posted by gman at 2:37 PM on October 17, 2011


Who do you think runs businesses?

Running something is not the same thing as being something.

It's like saying, who do you think drives cars? Therefore, people are cars.

That's a pretty basic logic fail.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:42 PM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: Who do you think runs businesses?

Easy, Mitt!
posted by gman at 2:45 PM on October 17, 2011


So if you give a car a parking ticket...
posted by Artw at 2:47 PM on October 17, 2011


It's going to want a quart of oil.
posted by grouse at 2:50 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


delmoi: "Can you make $80k a year reporting stuff for crimestoppers? Seems unlikely."

No, but if you know a big enough tax cheat...
posted by mullingitover at 4:23 PM on October 17, 2011


I hate this, hate the very idea, but you know, after more than a decade in Korea, I can't help but think it's going to make things better, even if the principle is horrifying to me.

See, the background to this is that rule of law here is, for the most part a joke. I mean it's miles better than it used to be, but. Obeying laws because they are laws -- whether they be traffic, or pollution, corporate governance or restaurant sanitation or whatever laws -- is felt by most folks to be entirely optional.

There are deep reasons why this is true -- rule of law being a concept not as fundamental in the cultural history of the region as it is in the European tradition, the last 100 years of Korean history where the police and army were as often the enemy and the betrayers of the people as not and the concomitant lack of respect people feel for them, the almost complete absence of police presence from the streets and highways, and more.

But the simple fact is, people run red lights, dump trash where they want, break every law big and small that they feel like breaking if they think they can get away with it without being personally shamed -- being seen to break the law is far worse than breaking the law itself -- and do so blithely, without perceiving much criminality at all attached to the action.

It lends an air of the wild west, paradoxically, to life here in the far east. I quite like some aspects of it, having grown up in the wilds of northern frontier Canada, I am very much a do-what-thou-wilt kind of fellow, and have never anything but a... very healthy skepticism towards the legal system and the police. It's quite fun and free living here, compared to what I have seen of life these days back in Canada, if you are able to ignore the countervailing balance, which is a sometimes-oppressive drive towards social cohesion and conformity to community norms.

Still and all, though, life would be a lot better in many ways if there were something in place to stop the most dangerous of scofflaws here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:27 PM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's a widely accepted practice because their wives don't want them showing up wasted at 10pm demanding sex.

Uh, no. Not really. It's way more complicated and way less 'ha ha isn't that amusing', unfortunately.

But yeah, there is more prostitution here embedded in this society that at least until recently was almost entirely unwilling to talk about or even acknowledge the existence of sex than I would ever have believed.

It's not a happy thing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:31 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


And if you rat out the President or prime minister, you get a 1,000,000 XP bonus!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:07 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dang, quin beat me to it.
posted by jrochest at 7:14 PM on October 17, 2011


This sounds like an anarchist's nightmare, but I'm having trouble seeing what's wrong with this from a libertarian perspective. We have people who get paid to catch legal infractions in the USA, too, and although our system is quite different (we give them guns, and uniforms to encourage in-group solidarity, and we make them officially exempt from some laws and unofficially exempt from many others), I'm not sure any of those differences are something we should brag about.

Obviously if there's something wrong with the law in the first place ("unlicensed seller of livestock"?) then making law enforcement less effective is an improvement. And there's definitely a correlation between how wrong a law is and how hard it is to enforce without "tattletales": if two people interact in such a way that neither is unhappy enough to tell the police for free, that's at least weak evidence that the police shouldn't be involved in any case. But as long as we'd like effective enforcement of at least some laws, maybe the right thing to do is make sure the good laws outweigh the bad ones in the first place.

On the other hand, I can see ways in which this system could be abused more easily than traditional policing. For instance, does the "fruit of the poisoned tree" doctrine apply? If it doesn't, then there's an obvious loophole through which the state can evade protecting civil rights. But if it does, then there's an obvious loophole through which criminals can unjustly acquire legal immunity.
posted by roystgnr at 7:59 PM on October 17, 2011


Blazecock: Wow. That's a really shitty example, mainly because the ADA only allows damages which result in getting the harm addressed, i.e. putting in markers for disabled parking spots. There's no cash payout to lawyers or even plaintiffs when there are ADA violations, and it's an all-too-common myth that there is such a thing.

Not the case in California. And when lawyers can bill their fees to the defendants, that opens the door for a lot of money to be made, even if there are technically no damages.
posted by alexei at 8:01 PM on October 17, 2011


It lends an air of the wild west, paradoxically, to life here in the far east.

I'd like to see this applied here in China, it would help cut down on the people breaking the new no-smoking laws, the endless littering and general lack of regard for the environment. I'd particularly like to see this applied to the huge government corruption issues - officials would be less inclined to ask for bribes or approve a dodgy building permit if they were afraid of being shopped. That alone would save lives.
posted by arcticseal at 8:23 PM on October 17, 2011


Here's the thing about Korea -- there are surveillance cameras everywhere.

Here's another thing thing about Korea -- most of them are broken.
posted by bardic at 9:15 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does Crimestoppers even deal with this petty kind of stuff? I wonder how much one might make just observing Occupy Wall Street's various minor infractions?

These kinds of incentives simply creates a nation of assholes willing to get into everyone else's shit for offenses they'd normally not give much thought about, because they're not very significant.

And that assumes everyone is honest. Setting people up for personal vendettas, or sheer profit: "I've got video of you dumping your garbage by the road. It'll cost you, like, a $1000 fine. My civic duty is worth about 10% of that fine to the authorities. But if you can do better, we'll count that as your penance, I'll hand you the usb drive with the footage, and forget this whole thing ever happened."

It's not clear how a snitch society would be useful in reducing corruption. People don't report crimes for money. They do it for a sense of communal responsibility, fairness, or public and personal safety. People who report crimes for profit are not beholden to rule of law, but to the highest bidder. Someone who would ignore dodgy building permits unless it paid could be just as easily bought off to look the other way. I'd think if there is a desire to foster respect for law, creating a foundation of snitches is a step in the wrong direction.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:28 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Money as an incentive for whistle blowing is not ideal but if it is targeting financial crimes then of course it makes sense. It is a market driven approach.
posted by vicx at 10:13 PM on October 17, 2011


stavrosthewonderchicken: It's a widely accepted practice because their wives don't want them showing up wasted at 10pm demanding sex.

Uh, no. Not really. It's way more complicated and way less 'ha ha isn't that amusing', unfortunately.


stavros, please elaborate. I find your treatises on Korea fascinating. No snark. I think your views shed a light into Korean culture I really can't find anywhere else.
posted by reenum at 7:55 AM on October 18, 2011


Oh man, I am run-off-my-feet busy lately, but if I can find the time and am caffeinated enough, I'll try.

Thanks for asking!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:36 PM on October 18, 2011


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