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police-smartphone smugglers


SEOUL, March 17 (Yonhap) -- Three South Koreans have been arrested on charges of purchasing hundreds of stolen or lost smartphones for illegal shipment to China, police said Sunday.

The three, including a 27-year-old man identified only as Park, were accused of buying some 500 smartphones worth 500 million won (US$449,640) from January until recently, smuggling them to China to sell them as used phones, a police spokesman said.

Park led the team, working between South Korea and his office in Weihai, a city in the eastern Chinese province of Sandong, the spokesman said.

The group allegedly bought stolen or lost smartphones through a parcel delivery service connecting inter-city bus terminals across the country to hide the identities of both ends of the delivery.

They are suspected of having sent the phones using an international parcel delivery service to China to sell them on the country's used phone market.

They allegedly communicated only through Kakao Talk, a free messenger application for smartphones, whose messages are technologically hard to track down.

Police said they booked 20 others who are suspected of having sold smartphones to the ring on charges of theft and embezzlement of lost articles.

The 20 people, mostly students, housewives, company employees and taxi drivers, stole smartphones in taxis, public baths and PC bangs, a type of high-speed LAN gaming center where patrons can play multiplayer computer games for a small hourly fee, or picked up phones lost by others in those facilities.

"There is much demand for used smartphones in China where the market is well developed for the item," a police officer said.

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