The Korea Herald


Police slap travel ban on suspected con artist, ex-fiance of fencing star

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Oct. 29, 2023 - 15:49

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Jeon Cheong-jo sitting inside a limousine (Kim Min-seok) Jeon Cheong-jo sitting inside a limousine (Kim Min-seok)

South Korean police said a travel ban on Jeon Cheong-jo, an alleged con artist who was briefly engaged to former Olympic medalist Nam Hyun-hee, has been issued, as details surrounding the relationship between the swindler and the embattled sports hero continue to emerge.

According to Songpa Police Station, the Justice Ministry recently authorized the police request to ground the 27-year-old Jeon, who is being accused of multiple counts of extortion. Jeon is suspected of swindling money from the former female fencing star’s acquaintances and family members on the pretense of investment, while also being accused of separate cases of attempted extortion and shamming other investors.

The cases have been forwarded to police in Songpa-gu, southern Seoul, who will conduct the investigation on allegations surrounding Jeon.

The "Jeon Cheong-jo scandal" quickly unraveled after Nam announced plans for her wedding on Oct. 23. It sent shockwaves across the country after most of what appeared to be far-fetched allegations -- ranging from Jeon being a woman to having served prison time for extortion -- turned out to be apparently true.

A police background check showed that Jeon is legally a woman, which means Jeon did not go through the legal procedure that allows a person to have their gender legally changed.

In the ensuing media coverage and an interview from Nam herself, it was revealed that Jeon apparently swindled money from multiple people while pretending to have intimate relationships as both a man and woman. In 2020, Jeon allegedly extorted money from her then-boyfriend while dating him as a woman, but claimed to be a man a year earlier when swindling 3 million won ($2,200) from a woman on Jeju Island.

Nam said she was aware that Jeon is a transgender man.

Jeon’s exact gender identity is unclear as of now, as Jeon’s supposed gender shifted back and forth depending on the victim.

Jeon’s apparent method of deception was pretending to be an enormously wealthy man looking for investment and promising a huge payoff to lure in victims. Jeon pretended to be an extramarital son of Paradise Group, a local casino and resort conglomerate that on Thursday officially denied any relations to the con artist.

In such process, Jeon apparently told boastful and often outlandish lies. One of Jeon’s targets, local YouTuber Roalnam who was Jeon's neighbor, said Jeon claimed to have assets of 51 trillion won, which would make him more than four times richer than the wealthiest South Korean in 2023, MBK Partners Chairman Kim Byung-joo.

A recent interview with Nam showed that Jeon had tricked her into believing that she was pregnant with Jeon’s baby. The former fencer did not explain how she believed to have been impregnated by a person who cannot produce sperm, but said she was told that Jeon and their supposed baby would inherit Paradise Group.

Jeon’s way of deceiving Nam included buying her pricey gifts such as designer handbags, accessories, a Bentley and a lavish trip to a Paradise Group-owned resort. This has led to suspicion that Nam was Jeon’s accomplice, not a victim as she claims.

Kim Min-seok, a member of the Gangseo-gu District Council in Seoul, was among the first to pursue legal action against Jeon by filing a complaint to the Metropolitan Police Agency based on reports from Jeon’s other victims. He said Nam should also be investigated for her suspected part in Jeon’s crimes.