South Koreans “roam cities secretly videotaping fellow citizens breaking the law, deliver the evidence to government officials and collect the rewards.”

October 7th, 2011

An interesting way to create a surveillance state. Hire people to surveil and omniveil everyone breaking the law! Were this to happen in the United States, it would seem the bounty hunters are agents of the state, and bound by the 4th Amendment.

The opportunities are everywhere: a factory releasing industrial waste into a river, a building owner keeping an emergency exit locked, doctors and lawyers not providing receipts for payment so that they can underreport their taxable income. . . .

Bounties have a history in South Korea; for decades, the government has offered generous rewards to people who turn in North Korean spies. But in recent years, various government agencies have set up similar programs for anyone reporting mainly petty crimes, some as minor as a motorist tossing a cigarette butt out the window.

Snitching for pay has become especially popular since the world’s economic troubles slowed South Korea’s powerful economy. Paparazzi say most of their ranks are people who have lost their jobs in the downturn and are drawn by news reports of fellow Koreans making tens of thousands of dollars a year reporting crimes.

Also outsourcing law enforcement is cheap!

The outsourcing of law enforcement has also been something of a boon for local governments. They say that they can save money on hiring officers, and that the fines imposed on offenders generally outstrip the rewards paid to informers. (The reward for reporting illegal garbage dumping: about $40. The fine: about 10 times as much.)

For most infractions, rewards can range from as little as about $5 (reporting a cigarette tosser) to as much as $850 (turning in an unlicensed seller of livestock). But there are possibilities for windfalls. Seoul’s city government promises up to $1.7 million for reports of major corruption involving its own staff members.