Part two of the Zenith Travel scam series of articles. — John.
By John Power
A travel agent banned from operating for owing customers more than 61 million won was still accepting bookings as recently as Monday, more than three months [NOTE: This time frame, as originally reported was incorrect. It was in fact more than two months] after police were alerted to the case. Wystan Kang, the owner of Zenith Travel, has since been arrested according to news reports on Thursday.
Zenith Travel, which caters to foreigners in Korea, was investigated by the International Crime Investigation Department at Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and on Oct. 6 had its business registration revoked by Seocho District Office for failing to refund canceled flights.
Kang quoted ticket prices to The Korea Herald through the company’s email address on Monday, four days after the removal of business registration, and almost a month after an initial suspension of business imposed by the district office.
Under an assumed name, The Korea Herald was offered flights to Cebu in the Philippines for 639,000 won, to be transferred to Kang’s KEB bank. One victim also told The Korea Herald that Kang used his credit card details to purchase another customer’s flights.
SMPA has declined to comment on the case. Seocho Police Station was first made aware of Zenith Travel in early August, before the case was transferred to the International Crime Investigation Department last month. A number of the victims have said they intend to file a civil case against Kang.
At the end of September, The Korea Herald reported that Kang had on numerous occasions cancelled mostly foreign customers’ flights shortly before departure, often without notice, and failed to provide refunds. Kang claimed he was in financial difficulty and would refund his customers.
According to a spokeswoman at Korea Tourism Organization, Kang’s company had not been legally permitted to serve foreign customers in the first place, and did not have business travel insurance.
Zenith Travel’s website and office have since been shut down, but its company email, firstname.lastname@example.org, was in use as of Monday.
In a press release Thursday, Seocho District Office said it was aware of 25 victims in total, including a Washington state representative’s son who booked a flight for his honeymoon and two Koreans, who are owed more than 61 million won among them. A Seocho spokesperson had refused to provide The Korea Herald with the press release Thursday, claiming he could not be sure he was speaking to a journalist, despite the statement being freely available on the district office’s website.