"People who fail to place the correct items into the correct recycling bags are defying the government's social policies and probably harbor socialist views including sympathies to North Korea." said a 42 year-old spokesman for the Ministry of Public Manipulation and Insecurity, who refused to be named.
Under the Civic Monitoring Program, so-called 'citizen informers' can report people in 971 areas including trash management, traffic violations, tweeting about voting on voting day, posting political messages online, not using an umbrella in the rain, obtaining tax waivers, drawing rats, prostitution, riding a motorcycle on the road instead of the sidewalk, dropping cigarette butts and selling non-Korean beef, for which informants can earn up to 2 million won ($1,760).
Some of the most successful of the 971 areas citizen informants can monitor are Civic Violations 181-208 - Private Learning Institutes, which are known as hagwon in Korean and under a variety of similar names by the foreign native English teachers who perform educational entertainment functions there. The most popular are Civic Violation 184 - Holding Classes Outside Permissible Times, Civic Violation 189 - Foreigners With Facial Hair, Civic Violation 199 - Attempting to Teach Using Unauthorized Materials, Civic Violation 200 - Attempting to Teach, and Civic Violation 208 - Overcharging Students. According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, since the citizen spying program began, about 3.4 billion won ($3 million) has been awarded to informants for hagwon-related offences alone.
Recognizing that it can be especially hard to report a loved-one to the authorities, the Ministry of Public Manipulation and Insecurity offers additional rewards to citizens who inform on their wives. A Ministry official said it was too early to say whether more civic and sense offenders were being captured this way, but if it ultimately proved to be the case they would investigate the possibility of extending the additional cash payment program to women at some point in the future.
The success of the spying program has even encouraged some upright citizens to develop spying on other citizens into a career, with citizen spying institutes, who offer special training courses in the use of surveillance techniques, and lessons on how to spot civic offenders from their body language. But there have been complaints that some of these institutes, which sell covert surveillance equipment, have been charging up to four times their normal price for the spy gadgets.
However, while overcharging hagwon students is a recognized civil violation, overcharging spying institute students isn't, so the government says it can take no action to stop this, and it doesn't wish to expand the number of official civic violations beyond the current 971 as "there is a danger of creating a surveillance state if citizen spying is expanded beyond a handful of areas."
The Fair Trade Commission also issued a warning Monday about Korea's growing number of citizen spy schools. "There are only a few people who make large amounts of money by reporting infractions to the authorities. People should not be deceived by their advertisements."
Do you know anyone you suspect of being an civic offender? Have you ever been offended by anyone? Has a foreigner ever offended you? If so, the Ministry of Public Manipulation and Insecurity would like to hear from you at http://www.mopas.go.kr or simply by picking up your telephone and speaking into it. Remember citizen, report them before they report you.
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