SEOUL, Korea, Feb 20 (Korea Bizwire) – When cold winter comes, most Koreans think of going to a Jjimjilbang, or Korean-style dry sauna. Lying flatly on a heated floor makes frozen body by chilly winter wind warm and one can easily feel relaxed. However, when you visit one, you must be on guard against pickpockets who are out there for your expensive smartphones.
Dry saunas, which play an important role for a resting place among many hard-working, hard-drinking Koreans, have become notorious as “tombs of smartphones” as many cases of smartphone theft are taking place there. According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, the theft cases of smartphones in Jjimjilbangs are overwhelming other places.
The cases of theft related to smartphones last year took places in Jjimjilbangs the most frequently with 19.9 percent followed by other locations such as restaurants (9.2%), Internet cafés (7.8%) and taxis (7.0%). Especially, in Bundang area, 54 percent of smartphone theft cases happened in Jjimjilbangs.
The cases usually take place at late midnight or before dawn, when the victims fall asleep deeply and the thieves can grab the smartphone easily.
A police officer said, “Most Jjimjilbang customers are taking their smartphones at their hands. But, once they put down their phones from their hands, the phones will be the target of theft.”
In 2012, as many as 635,513 cases of missing smartphones were reported to the police. As those stolen phones cannot be used in Korea, most of them were smuggled out to other countries including China, where they can use the phones with new USIM chips.
To prevent smartphone theft, some owners of dry spas even come up with ideas such as binding expensive phones to the customers’ wrists with fishing lines. But, those temporary methods are not enough to deter the persistence of burglars.
Another police officer said, “The smartphones are sold in the stolen goods market at the prices of several hundred thousand won, so they easily become the target of teens or thieves in their 20s. To prevent the theft, the most needed thing is the customers’ caution.”
“When you see people who are walking up and down ceaselessly or looking around the surroundings, you need to take extra care of your belongings. You need to keep the phones in your pockets or bind them tightly to your arm,” he added.