South Korea Pays Its Citizens a Lot of Money to Spy on Each Other

People can make $5 to tattle on a cigarette butt litterer; $800 for tip on unlicensed livestock sales

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Despite being blessed enough not to live in the police state to the north, some South Koreans have started toting video cameras, hoping to catch a fellow citizen break a law on tape. Because the South Korean government pays regular people to spy, Im Hyun-seok was able to quit his job as an English tutor to spy full-time at $85,000 a year, The New York Times' Choe Sang-hun reports. "Some people hate us," Im told the Times. "But we're only doing what the law encourages." By the numbers:

$40 Reward for a tip that someone is illegally dumping garbage.
$400 Fine for illegally dumping gargage.
$5 Reward for reporting someone who flicks their cigarette butt on the ground.
$850 Reward for reporting someone who sells livestock without a license.
$1.7 million Highest reward for Seoul city employees who catch major corruption.
$2.9 million Amount the Education Ministry has paid to spies since 2009.
$2,600 Amount Im was rewarded after noticing casinos often had coffee machines without the required sanitation inspection tags. He called them all to find out which ones had machines, and then reported all 600.
? How many people have become professional spies -- derisively called paparazzi -- is unknown. But it's common enough that there are schools to teach Koreans how to do it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.