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City councilors caught at Malaysia airport carrying over 40 bottles of soju

Sept. 7, 2023 - 17:55 By Yoon Min-sik
Democratic Party of Korea members of the Yongin City Council who visited Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, last month, pose for a photo in this photo taken on Aug.17. (Yongin City Council)

Some members of the Yongin City Council were caught by Malaysian customs for carrying nearly 40 bottles of soju each on their recent trip to the country, local media reported Thursday.

According to the reports, the incident took place last month when eight councilors all belonging to the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea left for a business trip to the city of Kota Kinabalu, accompanied by 14 employees of the council in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province.

Some of the council members had 40 bottles of soju and four bottles of Korean traditional liquor in their bags, which the immigration officials found at a Malaysian airport. The Malaysian law allows nonresidents to bring in liquor not exceeding 1 liter to the country.

The liquor, the party explained, was intended as a present for the Korean government employees in Malaysia. The council members were held by customs for about 10 minutes while they paid the tariff for excess alcohol -- an amount of 40,000 won ($30).

According to the city council, the politicians offered to discard the alcohol if they were to present any issues, but the customs employees said it was a minor issue that only required them to pay the extra taxes.

The incident, however, invited sharp criticism from their rival People Power Party, which accused the Democratic Party members of "having no respect for the country they are visiting."

"Democratic Party members of the Yongin City Council cannot escape the accusation that they lacked an understanding of the country they were visiting, even while they were visiting a country in the Islamic world," the People Power Party said in a press release.

Yoon Won-kyun, the chairperson of the Yongin City Council and a Democratic Party member, issued an official apology in a press conference, as did council member Hwang Jae-wook, one of the council members who went on the Malaysia trip.