MANILA, Philippines – South Korea criticized Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Thursday, February 23, for saying a "Korean mafia" might be involved in the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo.
"The embassy is strongly distressed that this false information could tarnish its honor and reputation," the Korean embassy said in a statement on Thursday.
"The Korean embassy regrets very much that, based on wrong and unfounded information, Secretary Aguirre made some misleading statements involving so-called Korean mafia at the Senate hearing on February 23, 2017," the embassy said.
The embassy said its officials did not ask Aguirre "to stop any investigations concerning the Korean mafia."
It noted that Jee, according to his widow, "had lived an honest life as a conscientious businessman, having no connections at all with any malicious Korean persons."
Embassy officials also recalled "consistent confirmations" from the Philippine National Police (PNP) "that this case has nothing to do with a Korean mafia."
They also said Aguirre promised that the Department of Justice "would not pursue any longer the angle of a possible linkage with a Korean mafia in its future investigations into the case."
They added: "The embassy has every confidence that no official has been compromised by Korean mafia. The embassy asks for any concrete evidence that substantiates his remarks. It would take full responsibility for it, if any."
In a Senate inquiry on Thursday, Aguirre alleged that the group behind Jee's slay might even involve some people from the South Korean embassy. He was also supposedly informed that Jee was kidnapped twice by a "Korean mafia" in the Philippines.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.