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Rural bank robber is nabbed in under 4 hours

Oct 24,2018
A man who stole over 24 million won ($21,135) in cash from a local bank in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang, was captured less than four hours later on Monday, the sixth case of a rural bank robbery this year.

Concerns are mounting over the vulnerability of banks in the provinces, where there are thin staffs and security is lax.

On Monday morning, a 46 year-old man sporting a black cap and white mask entered a local branch of the Korea Federation of Community Credit Cooperatives in Gyeongju, where he threatened a bank clerk with a knife and demanded cash.

When the bank’s 48 year-old director and another clerk attempted to stop the man, both were stabbed. The man then stuffed 24 million won in cash into a bag and escaped in a car he parked nearby.

Using surveillance footage of the vehicle, it took police only three and a half hours to track down the robber to his home, which was located in the same town.

The man - identified only by his surname Kim - was personally well-acquainted with the bank’s director, whom he had stabbed hours earlier.

When police entered his house to arrest him, Kim was fast asleep, apparently having drugged himself with sedatives immediately after the robbery. He was transferred to a local hospital, where he regained consciousness Tuesday morning. The two stab victims have recovered, though the bank director required surgery on his chest.

The frequency of similar crimes this year is raising concerns that rural bank branches are vulnerable to robbery attempts.

Four robberies including Monday’s took place this year in North Gyeongsang alone - in Yeongcheon County in June, Yeongju County in July and Pohang in August. Another two cases occurred in Ulsan in January and Asan, South Chungcheong, in February.

The robbed banks were all part of the Korea Federation of Community Credit Cooperatives.

Unlike commercial banks, credit union branches are not required to have security personnel.

There are usually only a handful of employees at these branches, and customers are also few and far between in rural regions.

A spokesman of the credit union said most of their branches were operated under individual corporate licenses, so imposing a uniform security policy was difficult.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]