MANILA • Philippine police kidnapped and murdered a South Korean businessman, and then led his wife to believe that he was alive for months to extort money from her, the authorities said yesterday.
The killing is the latest in a long series of criminal acts by the Philippine police force, regarded as one of the nation's most corrupt institutions, and has fuelled concerns about its role in President Rodrigo Duterte's war against crime.
Businessman Jee Ick Joo disappeared from his home in the northern city of Angeles last October, and his wife initially paid five million pesos (S$142,600) in ransom, national police spokesman Dionardo Carlos told Agence France- Presse.
However, Mr Jee was strangled to death and burned to ashes in a crematorium on the day he was abducted, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said, citing a Philippine government report. The crematorium was owned by a former police officer, the ministry added.
Mr Jee, believed to be in his 50s, was a former executive at shipping firm Hanjin. Philippine media said he was a businessman working for a manpower company, and had been living in the Philippines since 2008.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se demanded answers after receiving a phone call from Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay informing him of the murder.
"Minister Yun, expressing grave shock over the implication of Philippine police officers in the case, asked that the Philippine government get to the bottom of the case and bring those responsible to justice," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Ricky Santa Isabel, one of the officers accused of going to Mr Jee's house and abducting him, surrendered this week, said Mr Carlos.
He added that two other officers who went to the house and their superior were also under investigation. All four accused officers were from the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, which is based at the national police headquarters in Manila, said Mr Carlos.
He said a retired police officer was also believed to be involved, but had fled to Canada.
Mr Carlos added that there were South Korean accomplices, but did not elaborate on the identities or actions of these suspects.
Santa Isabel and his two colleagues had gone to Mr Jee's house on the pretext of a drug raid, said Mr Carlos.
The abductors demanded from Mr Jee's wife, Ms Choi Kyunghin, a ransom of eight million pesos on Oct 30 - 12 days after he was killed, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.
It added that she paid five million pesos, but the kidnappers then demanded another 4.5 million pesos, saying he was alive. When they failed to produce proof that this was the case, Ms Choi sought the police's assistance.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK