It is unclear exactly how many Islamic worshippers were victimized, but officers from the Busan Metropolitan Police Agency said that the goods were mainly distributed at local mosques and in areas mainly populated by Muslims.
Some 135,000 Muslims live in the country and 35,000 are Korean nationals, according to the Korea Muslim Federation. About 15 mosques are established in Korea, with the most prominent one being the Seoul Central Mosque, opened in 1976 in Itaewon, central Seoul.
Of the six suspects, three were charged for allegedly violating the Livestock Products Sanitary Control Act on suspicions that they distributed duck meat packaged with falsified halal certification labels.
The 62-year-old operator of an unauthorized livestock company in Chungju, North Chungcheong, was allegedly involved in the scheme as well as the 52-year-old head of a meat-packaging company. The three, all reportedly Korean, are believed to have sold some 100 million won ($86,200) worth of falsely labeled duck meat since Feb. 2014.
The police did not specify how the suspects were apprehended.
The other three, also Koreans, were booked for allegedly making and distributing fake halal ramen, in violation of the country’s Food Sanitation Act.
The trio sold some 40 million won worth of the product, also using fake halal certification labels, police said.
Authorities did not say how much money the suspects stashed away.
Expressing concern that the case could potentially undermine Korea’s reputation among Islamic countries, Busan police vowed to broaden enforcement on the domestic halal food industry to determine whether similar cases exist.
Meaning “permitted” or “lawful” in Arabic, halal is any action or object that is permissible according to Islamic law. Halal foodstuffs are those allowed to be consumed under Islamic dietary guidelines.
Halal meat comes from animals that are slaughtered in such a way so that as little pain as possible is inflicted. Animals must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter, and the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe must be severed by a razor-sharp knife in a single swipe, according to the Halal Food Authority.
Because pork is forbidden, halal slaughtering must not be done where pigs are slaughtered or in the vicinity of where pigs are butchered.
A number of Korean companies have strived to target what many say is a rising Muslim population here by satisfying halal requirements.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]