South Korean police chief superintendent drops in on Goulburn friends

Lee Seung-Youl, known as Reno, enjoyed a catch up with friends at the Goulburn Golf Club on Friday.
Lee Seung-Youl, known as Reno, enjoyed a catch up with friends at the Goulburn Golf Club on Friday.

The serenity of Goulburn Golf Club on Friday was a world away from South Korea where Lee Seung-Youl has noticed a marked increase in security for this week’s winter Olympics.

The chief superintendent in the South Korean National Police Force, popularly known as Reno, enjoyed a round of golf and drinks with friends, rekindling ties with those he met years ago.

The 48-year-old last visited Goulburn in 2010 for six months, researching pushbike road safety at the Police Academy. At that time he and his wife, Shin Youngok, rented a home in the city and made firm friendships in the community. In 2001 he also spent six months researching drug issues at the Academy, interviewing NSW Police and civil agencies.   

Now he’s back on a rare holiday for two weeks.

“I love Australia and I love Goulburn,” he said.

“Goulburn is Australia’s first inland city and has a very good ambiance. People here are very kind and I have some good friends.”

On Friday he was enjoying a round of golf that would normally cost $200 to play in South Korea.

There he is a chief superintendent based in Seoul, thanks to a promotion in December. Reno joined the South Korean National Police Force 24 years ago, an occupation he said was difficult to enter. After completing a Bachelor of Public Administration he became an inspector.

“In South Korea there are only two ranks – constable and inspector. Very few people reach inspector,” he said.

Over the past 10 years he’s been based at Police Force headquarters in Seoul, undertaking strategic planning. It’s about what happens in policing in 10 or 20 years’ time.

Policing is vastly different, with officers working long shifts from 7am to 11pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm Saturdays and Sundays. He receives just three weeks’ annual holiday.

Regular officers are not permitted to use guns, instead relying on non-lethal weapons. Only specialist armed forces are allowed to use guns.

“We have to develop a non-lethal weapon that’s more powerful than a taser to protect police officers,” Reno said.

He’s learning plenty from NSW Police, which he describes as very able, during his visits. He’s applied the lessons from bicycle safety and was impressed by the Academy’s simulation village, training police in terrorism and other scenarios.

“The PCYCs are also very interesting and impressive and it’s something I’d want to introduce in South Korea,” he said.

In two years he hopes to apply to become a Police Consul in Sydney. The three-year term involves acting on behalf of South Korean victims and perpetrators of crime in Australia.

Back home, security is ramping up in preparation for the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, some 130km east of Seoul. Reno said while there was heightened awareness of terrorism, Australians shouldn’t be afraid of North Korea.

“It can be resolved through dialogue,” he said of the strained relationship between north and south.

Meantime, he’s enjoying a welcome break, albeit without his wife and two sons. While in Australia, Reno is catching up with good friend Roger Lucas to help celebrate his 70th birthday.

“In Korea we have a saying that people have to reward the grace. Roger looked after my family very sincerely both times that I was here, so I’m rewarding the grace,” he said.


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