Korean meth smuggler jailed for three years

Richmond provincial court Judge Patrick Chen sent a stern message to aspiring drug smugglers from Asia last month while sentencing a Korean national caught at Vancouver International Airport.

Taek Hong Kim, 29, was sentenced to three years in prison, even though the people who hired him in South Korea to ferry 3.3 kilograms of methamphetamine only received 10 months in prison from the Korean courts.

"The imposition of a three-year sentence in Canada would have a significant denunciatory and deterrent effect, at least with respect to any Korean nationals who may consider getting involved in such criminal enterprises in the future, by demonstrating how much more seriously such crimes are dealt with in this country," Chen wrote in his reasons for decision.

Kim had travelled from South Korea to Canada on May 28, 2012 and was about to make his return leg on May 31 at Vancouver International Airport.

Kim was intending to board a plane to Japan, where he was scheduled to stay overnight before returning to South Korea.

But two Canada Border Services Agency officers searched Kim's luggage, and found two packages containing methamphetamine hidden in a secret compartment between the inner and outer shells of his suitcase.

A total of 3.3 kilograms of methamphetamine was found.

The court was told that Kim had been recruited to transport the suitcase by one of his closest friends, whom he'd known since middle school.

Kim's friend told him he was launching a business that involved transporting a suitcase from Canada to Japan, and Kim would be paid the equivalent of about $3,000.

Heavy debt incurred from a gambling habit led Kim to take the job.

Kim testified in his own defence, and claimed that he didn't know or even suspect that illegal drugs were in the suitcase, though he knew it contained something valuable.

But Judge Chen rejected that evidence.

While Kim was given a three-year sentence, Judge Chen gave him credit at a ratio of 1.5:1 for the past 19 months he's been in custody, equalling two years and 4.5 months. That means he has a little more than seven months left to serve.

The Crown had sought a six-year sentence, and credit for time served at a 1:1 ratio, which would have left him with with more than three years to serve.

Kim had no prior criminal history, comes from a stable and supportive family in Korea, and he gave a statement to Korean police which helped them arrest two men who who recruited Kim. They were handed 10 months sentences.

"...(A)lthough the accused had participated in a number of meetings, I do not find he was involved in any of the planning. His role was simply to pick up the suitcase and board a plane from Canada to Japan. He was not involved in the packing or the direct handling of the methamphetamine. I find the accused to be very much at the lowest rung of the criminal enterprise he was participating in," Chen ruled.

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