The Korea Times


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From rags to riches, then to thievery

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The story is nothing new. It has happened all over the world: The menial laborer striking the lottery, throwing money around like paper, getting divorced and eventually returning to the dump where is all started, or even worse. Even worse was the case for a 34-year-old Hwang who used to roam the streets aimlessly with no job and little money in his pocket.

Then, he struck it big, at least by Korean standards; he won a Lotto worth 1.7 billion won ($1.6 million) which left him with 1.4 billion won after taxes.

Eight years later, he found himself in a police station in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, on charges of habitual theft.

It all started with the Lotto win in 2006 when he was single and just 26 years old.

With money in his hands, he frequented Kangwon Land in Gangwon Province, the only casino in Korea that admits Korean nationals.

Having lost all of his money and into serious alcohol after four years, there was no way to maintain his lifestyle and living habits.

This was when he began to burglarize jewelry stores and lend money from friends which he never returned. He ended on the police wanted list for 13 cases of burglary.

Amid the crimes, Hwang began to target mobile phone shops since the items could easily be sold.

The whole time, he continued to buy lottery tickets in the hope of striking gold once again. When he was finally arrested, he had 10 Lotto tickets in his wallet.

"Had I not won the Lotto in the first place, at least I wouldn't have become a criminal. I would have found some way to live," he told police investigators.

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