In-Line Skates, Online Fraud on S.Korea List
South Korea (news - web sites)'s police chief said on Wednesday he had started sweeping reform in the country's force, including a pilot scheme to keep trademark riot police tucked away in reserve rather than on the streets during legal protests.
Commissioner General Choi Key-moon also told Reuters that cyber-crime -- notably online fraud -- was steadily increasing in the world's most wired country and that police had moved with the times by launching an in-line skating unit to patrol parks.
President Roh Moo-hyun plucked Choi from running the police university to head the force and reform it in keeping with his pledge to listen to and involve the people.
"We will focus on reform inside the national police agency and we will correct wrong practices," he said, referring to in-house corruption and unnecessary rank-pulling.
Choi said a police working group and a reform committee with academics, civic representatives and reporters had been set up on April 30 and a new policing method begun the next day -- May Day, often a day of unrest with unseemly televised clashes.
"We introduced a dramatic reform," he said. Organizers in Seoul and two other cities "policed" their own legal protests. Choi said there had been less violence. If the trend continued for the month-long trial the method would be widened, with riot police hidden and policewomen and traffic police on the scene.
Choi said police would strictly tackle illegal protests, such as those too close to the U.S. embassy.
He said anti-terrorism police remained on alert.
"Even though the Iraq war ended, the possibility of terrorist activity is still high," he said. His force detained two Turks during an alert for a possible suicide attack on the U.S. embassy last month but then deported the men for overstaying their visas.
On cyber-crime, Choi said figures were rising as the number of people using the Internet grew. There was an 80-percent rise between 2001 and 2002 to 60,068 cases -- half of them online fraud. The trend is still up with a 12-percent rise in the first quarter of this year, making it a priority area for Choi.
The in-line skating unit is another sign of the times.
"There is a changing trend in the back alleys," said the softly spoken Choi. "The police has to follow."
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