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Korean claims extortion, theft in Clark airport

A Korean woman on Monday has accused that some Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel at the Clark International Airport personnel tried to extort money and steal her personal belongings.

According to the management of the airport, Woo Seon Kyoung and her husband arrived in the Philippines on February 13 with one shopping bag of cosmetics and one branded lady's bag that were brought from Duty Free in Incheon, Korea.

In a Facebook post with an English translation, Kyoung said Customs officials had insisted that she must pay taxes for the items she bought.

"After explanation, we were taken to the small office next door. They kept talking to me in incomprehensible English. Then I heard the words ‘Pay’ and ‘Tax’ in my ears. Pay the tax ... And they wrote down on a piece of paper and showed me, '$137,'" Kyoung said.

"Why do they buy things at duty-free shops? That is why I intend to buy it more cheaply. But if I paid $137, it was more expensive than what I paid at the department store in Korea," she added.

Sought for comment, Oji Sanchez of the public information office of the airport, said Customs officials assessed the value of the items at US$637 or more than P10,000 which is the de minimis value taxable as per Sections 104 and 423 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act of the Philippines.

"Customs officers told Korean couple they have to pay taxes, and due to language barrier, customs officers showed a piece of paper bearing estimate tax amount of $137 and showed a written sign explaining customs policies, translated in Korean language," Sanchez said in an official statement.

The Korean couple refused to pay the taxes, therefore airport officials issued Held Baggage Receipt (HBR) on the items.

Rude treatment?

Kyoung also claimed Customs officials shouted "Go back Korea" at them. She also said one airport clerk tried to push her husband when they complained about paying the taxes.

Sanchez denied the allegations of the Korean couple.

"Customs officers said that when Koreans were already unruly, they called the attention of CIAC (Clark International Airport Corp.) security on duty as witnesses," Sanchez said.

Meanwhile, Kyoung said she was instructed by officials to return the next day at 5 p.m. to pick up the items.

However, she claimed that the officers did not show up. 

It was a different story for the airport officials as Sanchez said personnel were assigned to meet the couple but the foreigners did not show up.

Kyoung said she returned again the following day at 10 p.m., four hours before their departure for Korea.

"They told us to come back at 10 p.m. the next day, four hours before leaving the Philippines. After checking in on the departure day, I went to see him continuously from 10 p.m. The last time I was told to come was at 1:00 a.m. Our flight time was 1:30 a.m.," the Korean said.

"After boarding time, I heard an announcement calling my name and it was not until then that they gave me a call and asked me to pay for it. I understand that if you bring something to Korea, you will not be taxed," she said.

Sanchez said airport ground staff assisted the couple as they still need to pay taxes, but since it was already boarding time, the Koreans left their confiscated items.

Case of theft

The Korean also lamented how they lost their personal belongings inside the airport.

As they were about to board, Kyoung said they lost a watch and an electronic cigarette.

"My husband shouted that my watch was missing. It was a watch which cost over 70,000 pesos. As the husband looked for his watch in confusion, the checkpoint quietly held out his watch. It was outrageous but we ran again because the boarding time was short. And we realized when we were on board, the electronic cigarettes that I put in the basket with my watch disappeared," she said.

Sanchez denied that the items have been stolen.

"There was no e-cigarette vape device placed on the tray upon passing through the final security screening manned by Office of Transportation and Security),"

Sanchez said the watch, which was retrieved by a staff, "fell off the hand-carried bag of the Korean male while queuing at the conveyor belt."

"The OTS staff then waived and called his attention and promptly returned the wristwatch," Sanchez said.

The confiscated items are held in the "in-bond room" located at the airport while waiting for the passenger to claim and pay the corresponding tax, Sanchez said.

Meanwhile, the Korean expressed disappointment over the incident saying she never wants to visit the Philippines again. — BAP, GMA News