UPDATE: We got an audio interview with several of the main players, along with some pretty disturbing descriptions of police misconduct, coercion of testimony, and even alleged lying to the Canadian embassy when asked if media were present — the officer communicating said they weren’t, although the picture taken by one of the suspects shows a different story.
Expect some kind of story, with accompanying video, about a “ring” of foreigners involved in drugs and gambling, from tonight on the national news.
From a tip to Korean Media Watch, a group of Americans/Canadians were having a poker game that was raided. Apparently, someone called in a tip. There were 8 members at the raid, one of whom was female but was not asked to come down to the station to pose for the cameras today. 6 others NOT present at the poker game but had been players before were “asked to come down and make a statement” at which time they were told to take urine drug tests. The original 8 had already done so. Apparently, two of the original 8 tested positive, although no drugs were apparently found. This morning at the station, it was a press field day, with cameras called in and set up around a makeshift poker table IN the station. They were even asked by the Korean press to re-enact the game around the table for the cameras, which they refused to do. They also refused to grant any interviews.
One reporter, who seemed a bit disappointed or confused about what was actually going down, informed a member of the group that they had been called by the police, who had claimed to have busted a “drugs and gambling ring.” This is apparently how the police want things to go appear, as this is the context under which the press was called. A few things seem obvious — that the police are primed to turn anything involving foreigners into a “big story” and are directly involved in calling the media down to the station, as well as spinning the story. No matter what particular trouble any members of the group might be in, it is certainly a stretch to call a poker game a drug and gambling “ring,” or to link this story to other “foreigners acting wild” yellow journalism already out there. Considering the pattern of media vilification of foreigners, expect lurid closeup shots of a poker table (provided by the police), exaggerated unnecessary implications about other crime “rings” being conducted by foreigners, and most importantly, linkage of this story to other bad journalism already out there.
We will do our best to get their side of the story out there, at least, and to keep things in context. However, it must be expected that the media will follow the general pattern: wildly exaggerate the facts of the story, generalize that story to the greater population, and pose this generalized population as a “threat” to the Korean public, especially to children.
In the beginning and end, all from a poker game. No drugs on the premises or the persons in question, no reasonable evidence for a gambling “ring.” But that’s how the police are spinning it.
One suggestion from this writer and others: watch your Facebook accounts and updates. There is a lot of suspicion that certain interested parties are now watching Facebook, for various reasons related to the specifics of how this and related events went down, and that calls are being made, tips being given, one suspects, from status updates and event announcements. From the appearance of this story, it seemed like an easy setup and tipoff, with the police ready and prepared to spin a finished story, poker table included.
This pattern of foriegner vilification has institutional momentum, from an over-eager police force ready to make a poker game into a criminal drug and gambling “ring,” to a media equally ready to run any lurid story involving foreigners, whether illegal acts are involved or not. With a police force working hand-in-hand with the media for “the next big scandal,” the results should not be surprising.