Extra! Korea

August 16, 2009

Police pledge to crack down on motorbike posses*

Filed under: crime, rapid cultural change, youth — extrakorea @ 10:23 am

Korea Beat translated an article from earlier this month which described how membership in motorbike posses* and the criminal behavior associated with them has increased.

17-year old Lee, who didn’t go to high school after graduating from middle school, and his friends call themselves a “motorcycle gang”. He said, “I got addicted to it, because in the gang I feel like I’m the toughest, like I can do anything. I zigzag around, racing, and open a taxi door and grope someone.”

[ snip ]

After local toughs in the Sanbon area of Gunpo formed the group 1차 정모, they combined with other groups in the Seoul areas of Yeouinaru, Ttukseom, Children’s Park, and Coex, to form 2차 정모.
The gang members have some who take the roles of “leaders”, who issue orders, and “front covers” and “back covers” who watch out for police and impede them. Their activities include dangerous motorcycle riding such as ignoring traffic laws, crossing over the center line, purse-snatching, and fighting.

Now the Korea Times reports that the police are planning to crack down on them, especially in the interest of protecting young female members.

“Girls join the gangs in a friendly atmosphere first, but the boys sometimes sexually assault them. Also, if accidents happen, those on the back are hurt more seriously than the riders,” he [a police officer] said.

These motorbike posses are nothing like the Hell’s Angels or the Outlaws, who are basically mafias-on-wheels. However, I think that there are a few reasons to be concerned:

–> In Korea, if you are a high-school dropout, then you don’t have much of a future. If many members of these posses fit this profile, then it’s possible that they will realize, and then exploit, the criminal potential of their groups. Sure, a 100-cc motorbike may be unimpressive compared to a Harley Davidson motorcycle, but its still good enough to easily elude the police, given Korea’s traffic-congested streets and the tactics that they’ve developed, such as the aforementioned strategy of having members act as front and back “covers”. In fact, the smaller the bike, the more easily it can slip between cars.

–> They’re already committing crimes, such as sexual harassment, traffic violation, purse-snatching, and sexual assault. With their mobility, they could easily become effective drug-runners. Drugs are highly illegal in South Korea, and the more illegal something is, the more potentially lucrative. I could see them selling drugs in neighborhoods like Hongdae (which has a lot of dance clubs) and Gangnam (which is wealthy and has many night clubs) and then zipping off though the streets while the cops get stuck behind a bunch of SUVs.

–> The articles indicate that the groups have leaders, and that they are selected on the basis of being the “toughest.” As these high-school dropouts get older, and their career options rapidly and severely become constricted, I imagine that at least some of them will “upgrade” these activities from being a mere hobby to something that they can make money off of.

–> They mention at least one example of two groups amalgamating into one, thus gaining strength in numbers and influence over a wider geographic area.

* In the article that Korea Beat translated, the phrase used was “오폭족.” While “motorcycle gang” may not be an accurate translation, it’s difficult to find a viable alternative.


  1. One thing I found striking during my brief stay in Korea, was how the girl in back of the biker would ride side-saddle.

    Comment by The Sanity Inspector — August 17, 2009 @ 12:51 am

  2. I find the motorcycle delivery guys much more dangerous. They burn full speed through crosswalks full of people (I see it at least twice a week on my way to work)…

    Comment by TC — August 17, 2009 @ 2:07 am

  3. […] won from armored truck workers Filed under: crime — extrakorea @ 1:51 pm When I wrote this post on motorbike posses, some people ridiculed my idea that these groups could evolve from mere […]

    Pingback by Motorbikers steal 100 million won from armored truck workers « Extra! Korea — January 23, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

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