Part three of the Zenith Travel scam series of articles. — John.
By John Power
A travel agent who had his business registration revoked and was later arrested for scamming customers out of tens of millions of won is continuing to operate under a false name and new company.
Wan-koo “Wystan” Kang, of now-defunct Zenith Travel, currently operates Travel Expert under the alias “Joseph Kim,” advertising primarily to foreign customers.
Kang registered the business with Songpa District Office in Seoul under someone else’s name on Nov. 24, some seven weeks after he was arrested for not providing refunds on dozens of cancelled flights. But a call to Korea Tourism Organization’s Tourism Complaint Center confirmed that Travel Expert does not have the legally required business license to serve foreign customers.
“How can you know if this company is connected with Mr. Kang? We’ll never know … that’s kind of difficult for us (to find out),” said a staffer at the center.
She also confirmed that the person named on the business registration would be responsible for any problems with the company and that she could not locate its insurance information.
Kang quoted prices for flights to a number of destinations in China and took calls from other customers at his new Seoul office in Munjeong-dong when visited by The Korea Herald on Tuesday. A previous victim of Zenith who had met Kang later arranged to meet “Joseph Kim” and confirmed his actual identity. The Korea Herald first learned of Travel Expert after several of Zenith Travel’s victims received e-mail advertisements from the company.
During a call to Travel Expert’s office, a person answering to Joseph Kim denied he was Kang and claimed to have never heard of Zenith Travel.
“What are talking about, a different company? We are marketing to … the Korean market,” he said.
He further claimed his company has been in business for about three years and is based in Yongin City, Gyeonggi Province.
The Korea Herald has also learned that at least three more people did business with Kang under the banner of Zenith Travel in late November and mid-December, some two months after his arrest and business suspension. Each of those customers is still owed money by Kang.
Seocho District Office revoked Kang’s business license on Oct. 6 last year after it emerged that Kang owed more than 61 million won to some 25 people. The number of people claiming to have been scammed since then has swollen to more than 50, several of whom are owed more than 10 million won.
The Korea Herald reported in September that Kang had on numerous occasions canceled foreign customers’ flights shortly before departure, often without notice, and failed to provide refunds. Seocho Police were first made aware of Zenith Travel in early August, but Kang was not arrested until October, after the case had been transferred to the International Crime Investigation Department at Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.
The police officer in charge of the case, who requested anonymity, said it had been handed over to the prosecution and he was unaware of its current status.
A prosecutor familiar with the case who did not wish to be named said the investigation was ongoing at the East Branch of Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office. He said he could not elaborate on any other details of the case.
A lawyer representing a number of Kang’s victims in a civil suit earlier told The Korea Herald that a judge had ruled not to detain Kang after his arrest as he was not deemed to be a flight risk.
A group of Zenith Travel’s victims are currently in the process of suing Kang for their money back.