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Feud costs shopkeeper 4 million won

Apr 17,2018
Call it sweet revenge.

A convenience store owner in North Gyeongsang has to pay 4 million won ($3,725) in fines after a court found him guilty of defamation earlier this month. The crime: humiliating and threatening a 7-year-old boy for stealing a chocolate bar and energy drink from his store.

On Oct. 27 last year, the boy, whom police only identified by his surname Lee, was on his way home from school when he stopped by a convenience store in Chilgok County, North Gyeongsang, a little past 1 p.m.

According to police, Lee slipped 2,000 won worth of snacks into his backpack. When the owner caught him, he said, “It’s not your first time stealing from my store, right?”

The owner then asked the first-grader if he could see his parents. He demanded 1 million won as a settlement, according to the police report.

When the father apologized and refused to pay, the owner asked for 500,000 won. He was rejected again.

Disgruntled, the owner retrieved CCTV camera footage from that day and printed out eight photos of Lee stealing from the store. Some of them had clear images of the child’s face.

The photos were then posted on doors leading to two entrances to the store. Above them, the owner identified the child’s elementary school and grade but withheld his name. The signs claimed he had stolen goods from the store “continuously for at least three months.”

An hour later, a friend of Lee’s parents walked by and recognized the child in the pictures. He called Lee’s father, who subsequently reported the case to the Chilgok Police Precinct and sued the store owner for defamation.

A Daegu court found him guilty on April 6. The judge said the owner had damaged Lee’s reputation and caused unnecessary stress in his school life.

He ordered a 4 million won fine, taking into consideration the fact that the owner expressed his regret and was a first-time offender.

BY BAEK KYUNG-SEO [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]