South Koreans Arrested After Stripping National Parks Of Succulents For Illegal Export

As many of you know, I am a huge advocate of hiking and particularly our national parks. We have amazing parks and most of us take great efforts to avoid leaving traces or causing damage to our natural areas. That is why a recent arrest is so alarming. Recently, three South Korean nationals were  charged  after an arrest at Los Angeles International Airport with a van filled with more than 3,700 Dudleya succulents. The spiky blue-green plants are prized in Asia. The men were tracked as they stripped parks of the plants and stuffed them into backpacks.

These plants can be sold for $50 a piece abroad and the three men have made repeated trips to Northern California to steal the plant life. They were arrested after dropping off 3,715 succulents at a commercial exporter’s warehouse.

The two-count indictment charges each man with conspiracy to knowingly export plants from the United States that had been taken in violation of California law, and attempting to export plants taken in violation of state law. The men are “Byungsu Kim, 44, who operates a nursery in Vista and is a fugitive; Youngin Back, 45, who also is a fugitive; and Bong Jun Kim, 44, who is in federal custody.”


          “Upon his October 2018 arrival in Los Angeles via a one-way ticket from South Korea, Byungsu Kim displayed records stating that his nursery had shipped 5,731 Dudleya plants (501 pounds) to South Korea on or about September 12, 2018, and that the purported “place of origin” of the plants was San Diego County. Since 2009, Byungsu Kim had traveled to the United States from South Korea more than 50 times, and in 2013 had 80 plants seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

This is from the Justice Department

          After their October 2018 arrival in Los Angeles, the trio allegedly drove to various state parks where Dudleya plants grow, including DeMartin State Beach in Klamath, California, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Russian Gulch State Park in Mendocino County. Law enforcement surveilling the defendants observed them pull the plants out of the ground and then transport the harvested Dudleya plants to a nursery that Byungsu Kim operated in Vista, located in San Diego County, court documents state. Prior to the plants’ shipment, Byungsu Kim scheduled an inspection with a county agriculture official at the Vista nursery and falsely told her the government-issued certificate necessary for the plants’ exportation should list 1,397 Dudleya plants (259 pounds) for export to South Korea and that the “place of origin” of the plants was San Diego County, the indictment alleges.

          The defendants then transported the plants to a commercial exporter in Compton, to whom Byungsu Kim intended to present the fraudulently obtained certificate so the Dudleya plants could be shipped to South Korea, the indictment alleges. The defendants were arrested in Compton last year and currently face state criminal charges in Del Norte County Superior Court. Law enforcement seized approximately 3,715 Dudleya plants (664 pounds) in 34 boxes at the Compton location and the value of the seized plants in Korea would be approximately $602,950, court papers state. Two of the defendants, Byungsu Kim and Youngin Back, have since fled the United States.”

          They could receive as much as 10 years in federal prison. While it is unlikely to result in such a maximum sentence, their conduct more than warrants such harsh punishment.

21 thoughts on “South Koreans Arrested After Stripping National Parks Of Succulents For Illegal Export”

  1. Funding for state Fish and Wildlife officers has been severely cut in places like California, and it’s looked upon as being a job without a future. State Fish and game officers are always on the front lines of observing, and arresting these sorts of people. The feds are brought in after the case is made so they can prosecute under federal statutes. The prosecution costs alone are formidable for a state agency. In most states and to a large degree in CA salaries for officers are paid for with funds from hunting and fishing licenses. Every erroneous photo drumming up online outrage about hunting cuts into funding to prosecute the people who harm the environment such as these guys. In Africa it’s the same. Trophy hunters are the largest source of income to curtail poaching.

  2. OT;

    If you say so, Darren. My family’s dealt with social workers in regard to medical care and long term care problems, as well as a private contractor hired for ‘care management’ of a drug addict. The whole experience left me radically unimpressed and confirmed my suspicion that social work should be dismantled as an independent profession.

  3. I guess propagating Dudleya was just too slow. Buying them in native plant nurseries wouldn’t net them the really rare ones.

    I knew from the headline that it was going to be Dudleya. The rare species are hot right now on the black market. What is especially egregious is that native plants adapted to arid regions are often difficult to dig up and transplant. They sink roots down deep. When you dig them up, you tear up their root system. The tap root is damaged, and it never fully recovers. That broken tap root will never grow straight and true again. If it manages to survive for a while in a black market nursery, it will grow a tangled mess of roots, much like a topped tree grows snarled, weak branches where the strong ones were mutilated.

    In addition, these Dudleya are adapted to CA’s ecosystems – there are specialized Dudleya for coastal, chaparral, and desert ecosystems. They all require dry summers and rain/water in relatively mild winters. With our drought state, it is an absolute miracle for any native plant to sprout and survive. Most perish. The rate of population growth of native, arid plant communities (besides rabbit brush and buckwheats) is quite slow

    I am not aware of any Dudleya species that are able to withstand harsh winters. South Korea gets cold, and it’s hot and humid during summer – perfect conditions for mold. Arid chaparral plants from CA are especially susceptible to soil fungus, that grows in summer rains. They have no natural defenses for it.

    These rare plants are getting poached to the point where some are in danger of extinction in the wild, and for nothing. They are not suited for most areas of Asia.

    These are some of my favorite succulents in the world. I get how botanical collectors want to grow what’s rare, but you can love native plants to death. Literally. You can barely find white sage anymore because the New Age hippies have denuded entire hillsides of it to make smudge sticks. Ethical methods to obtain plants have got to be a cornerstone of any gardener of rare or native plants.

    The poachers, and the collectors they supply with rare or endangered animals and plants need to learn some shame and self control, and discover a code of honor in their fields. This is true of any poacher. Although Asia is rather infamous for poaching, as I mentioned above, many Americans have no compunction against harvesting or even destroying native plants. The idiots came out of the woodwork in the Super Blooms across the state. Actresses and Youtubers drove for hours to put on prairie dresses, in the middle of trails, and roll down hillsides, crushing delicate poppies before they could set seed, dooming them to a sparser sowing. Too bad they didn’t roll over some fiddle neck. Having a buddy use tweezers to pull the stinging nettles from their backsides might have taught them better than all the docents in the world admonishing them about conservation. I’ll bet they think they care about the Earth, too.

  4. You’d think someone with a greenhouse would propagate them. Guess it was too much work and took too much patience.

  5. I am glad you brought this up. Maybe 20 years ago, or more, Vietnamese immigrants virtually eliminated bird species at Gold Gate Park in San Francisco. Trapping them for, apparently, food. Chinese immigrants in the Northwest or a little east of there, were illegally trapping bears and using the meat in their restaurant. Chinese eat dogs and cats. In SOUTH KOREA they HANG outside the butcher shops LIVE dogs, supposedly makes the meat more “tender.”

    25 years ago or so in Utah a father sold his daughter’s pony to a Samoan or Tongan family.
    Several hours later the little girl wanted to say goodbye to her former pet, well they there and the pony was on the SPIT already roasting.

    I have to say that to my knowledge it has only been European aka White people who have had strict laws against animal cruelty and EATING poor little pets.

    In Venezuela BEFORE the problems there they would eat Guinea Pigs or something like it and this buxom Venezuelan woman ripped the leg off of one of these creatures and gulped it down, roasted alive of course.

    In China on the PBS show GLOBE TREKKER the lady host was walking up a hill and in front of her was a Chinese man wearing a backpack to witch was affixed a chopped and most dead DOG.
    I do need to say that the way America’s demographics are going it will be a MUCH different place.

    You Can’t Have A First World Country, with A Third World Population.

    1. You Can’t Have A First World Country, with A Third World Population.

      Personal income per capita in real terms in South Korea is higher than Spain’s and only about 10% lower than Britain’s. Greater Seoul has a population similar to Greater London’s. The homicide rate in South Korea is > 40% lower than Britain’s and 1/7 th that of the United States. South Korea’s total fertility rate is, alas, pathologically low: 1.17 children per woman per lifetime. They’ve got the agreeable and the disagreeable aspects of a 1st world society.

    2. eating dog meat is popular throughout china. but, as dogs gain in popularity as pets, this is expected to decrease.

      eating cat meat is considered tasty among Cantonese, but disgusting to northerners.
      Northern Chinese thingk the southern Guandong people will eat ANYTHING.

      there is a dish called “cow dung hot pot.” however, it is really not made from cow dung, just, um, cow stomach contents, ie, not yet digested grass. of course manure is kind of like partially digested grass too, so, um the question is perhaps only one of degree

      I have not had the pleasure so far and will seek to avoid it if the dubious “opportunity” ever arises

      keep in mind if you eat shrimp and catfish you are eating dung eaters too. so, again, the question is often one of degree

  6. This wasn’t a case of “Oh, gosh, we didn’t know that was illegal.” One of the crooks had been caught with 50 of the plants in his possession, trying to fly them out of the country.

    Ten years for the guy in federal custody, to provide an example to others trying to make a fast buck by stealing valuable plants from this country.

    And we ought to really push for the other two to be extradited back here to do their time as well.

    1. They are described as “South Korean nationals.” I don’t know if that means they were here on a work visa, student visa, or just visiting.

      For them to be barred from the US would require them to be deported. I wonder if one of the sanctuary cities would shield them.

      I agree that they should be barred from the US. Border security would prevent personas non grata from returning and wrecking more havoc.

      1. ROK is part of the visa waiver program. tourists do not need a visa to visit here if they stay is less than 90 days.

        ROK citizens like to tour the US and have tons of money. It would probably be dumb to discourage this as a general phenomenon.

    2. Good thought, but they’ve committed a crime that would earn anyone, citizen or noncitizen, ten years in Club Fed. They should serve that time, THEN get the boot in their respective asses out of this country.

  7. Friends of Bill Clinton no doubt.

    Bill and Hillary stole property from the White House before Bush took office. They also smashed, sabotaged, defaced and otherwise showed the low lifes that they are

    United States General Accounting Office
    Allegations of Damage During the 2001 Presidential Transition

    Office of Administration prepared the list on the basis of the recollections of five EOP officials with responsibilities in the areas of administration, management, telephones, facilities, and supplies. It listed missing building fixtures, such as doorknobs and a presidential seal; computer keyboards with missing “W” keys; damaged and overturned furniture; telephone lines pulled from the wall; telephones with missing telephone number labels; fax machines moved to the wrong areas and a secure telephone left open with the key in it; offices left in a state of “general trashing,” including the contents of desk drawers dumped on the floor, a glass desk top smashed and on the floor, and refrigerators unplugged with spoiled food; writing on the walls; and voice mail greetings that had obscene messages. The list also indicated that six to eight 14-foot trucks were needed to recover usable supplies that had been thrown away.


      Wikileaks: Hillary Clinton Stole Furniture From Department of State, Too

      What is wrong with Hillary Clinton? When she left the White House and the new Bush administration scrubbed things down and inventoried the home, they found that the Clintons had stolen lots of furniture and other art.

      Evidently, Queen Stickyfingers struck again while at the State Department. She took furniture and other State Department property home. No one knows if she ever brought it back. From The Examiner:

      Hillary Clinton and her staff removed “lamps and furniture” from State Department offices and brought them to her home, the FBI revealed in 100 pages of notes made public Monday.

      Witnesses did not know if she ever brought the items back.

      The move was just one of many that irritated members of her security detail, who described her treatment of security agents as “contemptuous.”

      “Prior to Clinton’s tenure, being an agent on the Secretary of State’s protective detail was seen as an honor and a privilege reserved for senior agents,” the FBI wrote in its notes. “However, by the end of Clinton’s tenure it was staffed largely with new agents because it was difficult to find senior agents willing to work for her.”

      That last tidbit is delightful. Hillary is so horrible, seasoned agents didn’t want the Secretary of State’s detail. I wonder if she’s going to have trouble finding secret service agents to guard her should she become President.

      The idea of Hillary Clinton and her hound-dog husband pilfering the White House again is sickening. These people are easily bought, crassly commercial when it comes to selling their access, and steal the silver like desperate ragamuffins.

      Donald Trump wouldn’t need to steal to have fine things. His home is a gilt-filled lair. The Clintons could only dream of such over-the-top indulgences. They don’t have to dream. They just steal.

      1. I am truly shocked that you would continue to harp about HRC when right before your eyes you have one of the biggest embarrassments to the United States of America: that fat slob who makes a fool of himself and the United States, by extension every single day. Recent examples: calling Megan Markle “nasty”, then trying to lie about it, and when caught with the audio recording, tried a Kellyanne spin by claiming he really said her negative comments about him were “nasty” and that lying media got it wrong. Suggesting to Teresa May that she sue the EU over Brexit, which would force them to settle with her, on her terms, because that’s his clever strategy to get his way. Then, there’s criticizing Mueller, who earned the Purple Heart after being injured in Viet Nam, and House Speaker Pelosi, with the graves of the brave men who died at Normandy in the background. Was he at Normandy to campaign? How about the interview with Piers Morgan in which he claimed he wasn’t a “fan” of the war in Viet Nam? Is any member of any military a “fan” of war? He also complained that Viet Nam was “so far away”. No Trump has ever stooped to wear the uniform because they are cowards, yet this fat, orange slob who cheated to “win” the Presidency shows up at Normandy as if a draft-dodging coward and narcissist such has he has the right even breathe the same air in the location where these fallen heroes are laid to rest. Then, there’s the claim that thousands of Brits were cheering him, and that he never saw any protesters. How about commenting on British political matters, something no visitor ever does. What about dragging his useless adult children to a State Dinner, again something that no POTUS has ever done, as if the Trumps are royalty. Then, there’s the ill-fitting tuxedo and the bragging about how the Queen had the time of her life during the time she spent with the Fat Dotard.

        How do you know that movers didn’t simply load furniture, etc by mistake when the Clintons moved out of the White House and the State Department, as opposed to HRC or BC intentionally directing stealing? Why would the Clintons need to intentionally steal furniture? They wouldn’t. This wouldn’t matter to you because you are a Faux News disciple and all they do to mitigate Fatty’s endless mis-steps is pivot to harp about the Clintons.

        1. A 400 word rant on a jumble of topics irrelevant to the moderators post. One thing for which we all can give thanks is that we’re not your caseworker or any of your hapless family.

          1. L4D says–You are quite correct to find fault with Estovir. And it’s good to see you finally agreeing with Natacha, for a change.

  8. The sign clearly states don’t remove live animals from the beach – I once confronted teenagers who were removing live sand dollars from a beach in Naples, Fl. They ignored me. While heading home, these same teens were knocking coconuts out of trees. So they are teens. Right? The same beach. Different day. A grown man had his pockets full of live sand dollars. We can’t expect teens to behave better if adults refuse to.

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