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Police bust Topik cheating ring

Sept 26,2017
The Busan Metropolitan Police Agency said Monday it arrested a Vietnamese broker and two accomplices who had collected some 120 million won ($105,943) from 18 job seekers from Vietnam and helped them cheat on their Test of Proficiency in Korean (Topik) exams.

The 27-year-old broker and his accomplices, all in their 30s, targeted Vietnamese nationals who sought jobs in Korea, where wages on average could be 10 times that back home.

According to Busan police, the Vietnamese broker ran a private academy since 2016, offering training to go abroad in Vietnam.

In January, the Topik exam scores were included as a prerequisite for the D-4-6 visa, granted to those training at a superior private educational institution in Korea.

Police say he targeted Vietnamese nationals who did not want to spend the minimum six months to a year of studying to prepare for the state-run Korean language proficiency test for foreign students and expatriates.

He worked with two other Vietnamese nationals, ages 36 and 37, and recruited 18 people, luring them with the promise, “you can earn a lot of money if you go to Korea.”

His group collected around 15 million won per person for helping them ace the Korean language proficiency test and arranging them to get industrial training in Korea for one year.

The clients were paid on average 300,000 to 400,000 won per month in Vietnam, so the broker fee was no small amount for them.

The broker earned a master’s degree in international trade at Seoul National University and was proficient in Korean.

He employed methods commonly used by brokers who enable test takers to cheat on the Test of English for International Communication (Toeic), taking advantage of wireless transmitters and receivers to feed answers to test takers.

Kim Byeong-soo, a chief investigator at the Busan police agency’s international crime investigations unit, said that while this broker lived in Korea, a group was arrested for cheating on the Toeic exam in 2015. “It appears that he became familiar with the cheating method then.”

The Vietnamese broker enabled his clients to cheat on the Topik exams by taking the test with them. Then he conveyed the answers through a wireless transmitter to an accomplice who stood outside the test center, who then forwarded the answers to the test takers.

The time allotted for the Topik exam is 100 minutes, but the broker said he was able to complete the test in 20 minutes.

Though he took the Topik exam numerous times over March and April this year, the administrator of the exam, Korea’s National Institute for International Education, did not pick up on this fact.

The lead broker, his two accomplices and the 18 job seekers who cheated on the Topik exam, arrived at the Gimhae International Airport in Busan on Sept. 15.

The broker and two accomplices were arrested on the spot by Busan police. Two Korean individuals involved in linking the Vietnamese job seekers with an industrial and technology training center, a 29-year-old man surnamed Lee and a 44-year-old woman surnamed Lee, were also booked without detention.

The Vietnamese broker was also found to have been involved in other illegal methods of obtaining employment visas, according to police.

“Every time the Topik is administered, some 2,400 to 2,500 Vietnamese take it,” Kim of the Busan police agency said.

“Because the Topik has become required since January as a prerequisite for the visa, there is a chance that similar crimes may happen in the future, so we will continue to investigate it through the aid of related agencies.”

BY LEE EUN-JI, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]