State-run debt collector plans overseas offices to nab hidden assets

March 24, 2016

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The Korea Deposit Insurance Corp. (KDIC) plans to open offices overseas to increase the likelihood of finding assets stashed away by companies and businessmen that have gone bankrupt, its officials said Thursday.

Preparations have been under way from the beginning of the year, with the United States, Cambodia and Australia, the countries where hidden assets have often been found, as likely candidates, they said.

The agency takes charge in seizing properties of individuals and firms to help collect debt and so far has relied on private investigators hired in foreign countries to pursue assets hidden outside of the country. The investigators helped seek out real estate in the U.S. belonging to the actual owner and family of the Sewol ferry that sank and killed more than 300 people in April 2014. In another case, the KDIC retrieved US$8 million through a lawsuit from a real estate broker who had hidden property in Cambodia after a six-year probe.

Officials said working from Seoul, however, has its limits. The agency has uncovered $59.1 million in hideaway assets overseas since 2007 and retrieved $13.9 million. But the cost of hiring private investigators and legal proceedings was equal to about 11 percent of the recovered assets, according to KDIC figures.

“We receive numerous tips through our reporting centers in the country about hidden assets in other countries, but we would be able to follow up better if we knew more about the circumstances on-site, which is why we are trying to set up offices overseas,” an official said.

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