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Korean Surveillance School Trains Citizen Snoops

  • Jason Strother

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SEOUL - Law-breakers in South Korea beware. Citizens trained to videotape illegal activity are on the loose and making extra income by selling the tapes to the police.

Ji Soo-hyun leads a double life. Three-months ago, the housewife began a career catching lawbreakers red handed. Ji, 54, says her specialty is going undercover at private tutoring schools.

"I pretend that I am going to enroll my kids in the school. I ask the faculty about extra services. There are a lot of illegal activities in these schools, like staying open too late and charging additional fees. These are the types of things I record," Ji noted.

When Ji is on her mission, she uses a small, concealed camera to record video.

A cameraman is among the students of the Seoul paparazzi school - the same place that taught Ji how to secretly film illegal activity.

Academy director Moon Seong-ok also helps students find buyers for their secret footage.

"The students want to make money. I contact them with police agencies, local governments, health agencies and education authorities who pay them," Moon explained.

Moon claims citizen paparazzi can earn between $20 and $30,000 a year. But some observers say the government should not be paying neighbors to spy on neighbors.

"When it comes to citizen paparazzi, the government is outsourcing responsibility to civilians and everyone knows it is a big problem. However, people don't really see it as an important issue," said Chun Sang-chin, a sociologist at Seoul's Sogang University.

Chun says that is because people worry that if they complain, it will seem like they have something to hide.

Citizen paparazza Ji Soo-hyun says she does not feel sympathy for people breaking the law.

"At first I felt guilty about reporting on these people, but the more I did it, I realized how much illegal activity is going on around us," Ji admitted.

Ji says she is now turning her camera on people who skip out on paying their taxes.

Producer Malte Kollenburg also contributed to this report.