Korean woman fined for offering businessman her liver in exchange for job for son

Posted on : 2022-12-21 17:06 KST Modified on : 2022-12-21 17:12 KST
The quid pro quo liver transplant became delayed after the woman caught COVID-19, and was ultimately canceled

A woman in her 50s was fined by a district court in Korea after promising to donate part of her liver to a company chairman in exchange for a job for her son.

The promised liver transplant didn’t take place because the woman contracted COVID-19 shortly before the operation. The chairman of the construction company, who was supposed to receive the liver transplant, has since died.

On Tuesday, Park Jeong-gil, a judge in the Seoul Central District Court’s criminal division, ordered the woman (identified here as “Ms. K”) to pay a fine of 3 million won (US$2,331) for violating the Organ Transplant Act.

This past February, Ms. K heard from a friend that the chairman of a sizable construction company was seriously ill and needed a liver transplant. The friend connected her with an employee at the company in question (identified here as “Mr. N”) who was the source of the information. Mr. N had gone to school with the company president, the son of the chairman who needed a liver transplant.

In a meeting with Mr. N, Ms. K said she was willing to donate her liver in exchange for 100 million won (US$77,000) and a job for her son at the construction company. The chairman’s son agreed to those terms.

On March 7, Ms. K entered a hospital in Seoul to be tested prior to the organ transfer. She pretended to be the daughter-in-law of the chairman who was supposed to receive the transplant.

A week later, Ms. K was approved as an organ donor by the National Institute of Organ, Tissue and Blood Management. But after being admitted to the hospital for the transplant, she was diagnosed with COVID-19, which caused the operation to be delayed.

But as Ms. K’s hospital stay dragged on, a nurse found Ms. K’s relationship with her caregivers suspicious and reported her to the relevant bodies for organ trafficking.

As a result, her surgery was canceled. While the investigation and trial were underway, the construction company chairman who had been waiting for the liver transplant eventually passed away in July.

The sale of human organs is strictly prohibited under Korea’s current law. The Organ Transplant Act mandates punishment for anyone who promises to give or receive financial gain or any other compensation in exchange for an organ or who aids or abets another in doing so.

When Ms. K stood before the court, she asked for leniency on the grounds that she hadn’t known she was breaking the law.

“I thought my son would be able to get a job if the operation was a success. I also got greedy because they promised to give me money,” she reportedly said during the trial.

Mr. N, who had arranged the organ sale, said he “took a personal interest in the matter because it concerned the father [the chairman] of a childhood friend [the company president].”

The court sentenced Ms. K to pay a fine of 3 million won and gave Mr. N and another individual, as her accomplices, a six-month prison sentence (suspended for two years) and a one-year prison sentence, respectively.

“Organ removal and transplant is strictly prohibited by law in light of the fact that it can undermine public health and endanger the health and lives of both the donor and the recipient when conducted illegally. Since the defendants’ actions are in violation of this, they cannot avoid punishment under criminal law,” the court said.

The court gave the following rationale for its sentencing of Ms. K. “We took into account the mild extent of her participation in the crime and the fact that she wasn’t paid as promised after her surgery was delayed due to her diagnosis with COVID-19.”

By Jeong Hye-min, staff reporter; Choi Min-young, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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