Police have arrested a 26-year-old Korean Chinese identified as Heo on charges of puncturing the tires of over 210 cars across Seoul since early September.
Police said Heo confessed to the crime and said he was driven into a rage by unpaid wages.
Heo came to Korea from Shenyang, China, in December last year, and struggled to find a job for some time. He finally got a job in a company making blueprints in May this year, but left the firm the following month without getting paid the W1 million he had earned.
In August, he joined a vending machine design company but quit again and was not paid W1.7 million he was owed. He went back to the companies numerous times to demand the payment of his wages, but to no avail.
Heo then turned to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, but the long processing time of his petition frustrated him.
He started puncturing tires of cars with a 13-cm awl he carried in his pocket. He told W2 million is a lot of money for him and he felt avenged every time he punctured a tire.
He started his rounds at around 7 p.m. every two or three days, and patiently punctured tires until 1 or 2 a.m., when the subway stopped running.
One night, he punctured the tires of over 70 brand new cars. Because he chose to puncture them on the side, which is irreparable, the damage is estimated at close to W160 million. Heo did not even attempt to cover his face while he was on a puncture spree and was easily identified from CCTV footage.
When confronted with the evidence, he immediately admitted the crime.
"Heo was anxious to start earning money because he was from poor family. He was previously treated by a psychiatrist for depression because he grew up without friends and parents from a young age," a police spokesman said. Heo's parents left him on his own from when he was six years old to work in Korea and Japan. They sent money home and supported him until he finished university.