The FBI and Baltimore police foiled a plan to kidnap two sons of a wealthy Korean yesterday when they arrested a Virginia man and accused him of seeking help from a Korean organized crime group to get $4 million in ransom, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Heon Sik Park, 39, of Alexandria was arrested in the 1700 block of Belmont Ave. in Woodlawn and charged with solicitation to take hostages and attempted hostage-taking.
According to the FBI, Mr. Park had contacted members of the organized crime group Korean Power and asked them to help him kidnap Kim Sun Jong, a University of Pennsylvania junior, and Kim Yun Jong, a Brown University freshman.
The targets are the sons of Kim Hoo Jong, who federal authorities say is an influential multimillionaire in Seoul.
"This had the potential to be a highly explosive situation," said U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett, who praised the work of the FBI and city police.
The arrest came after a three-week investigation, which began when an FBI agent who had infiltrated the Korean Power group discovered that someone had contacted the organization to seek its help in the kidnapping, said assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew G. W. Norman, who coordinated the effort.
While pretending to be a member of the group, the agent met with Mr. Park in Oxon Hill on April 10. Mr. Park allegedly told the agent he wanted to kidnap the young men in two to three weeks, the affidavit said.
They met again April 17, this time in the parking lot of the Landmark Mall in Alexandria. The man allegedly provided more details of his plan to kidnap the men from their university campuses and to hold them for ransom at a safe house in Pennsylvania, the affidavit said.
Meanwhile, the FBI conducted a background check of Mr. Park and learned from officials at the U.S. Embassy in Japan that the Korean National Police were seeking him on a variety of fraud charges in a warrant issued in August 1989.
On Wednesday, Mr. Park contacted the agent by pager, and later allegedly told him that he would be prepared to travel to Pennsylvania yesterday to lease the safe house and carry out the kidnapping.
The affidavit did not give details stating why the arrest was made in Baltimore.
Mr. Bennett said that although the incident caused great concern for the safety of the students, the FBI was able to defuse the situation because of its success in infiltrating organized crime groups. He said this was an isolated threat. "We have no indication this is part of a pattern of violence against children of wealthy foreign nationals studying in this country," he said.
FBI Special Agent Rosemary S. Vicini said Korean Power operates in Washington and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs and is believed to be involved in extortion, kidnapping and murder. Officials say the organization has a minimal presence in the Baltimore area but operates on a larger scale in New York.