The Urban Legend of Organ Harvesting and Gwangju Taxis

By Stephen Redeker

Hang on to your kidneys.

Since sometime in the late 1980s there have been many rumors around the world about travelers who have been unknowingly sedated and awoken in a bathtub full of ice and water. They were left with a note or told that one or both of their kidneys had been removed. On the black market a human organ, such as a kidney, can sell for a large sum of money. Unfortunately, these poor victims did not willfully choose to participate in this. Instead, the organs were illegally harvested from the unsuspecting victims. However, the good news about these gruesome tales is the fact that they are not based in reality at all. These stories are untrue.

Korea had its own organ-harvesting caper, and it actually originated in a city very close to many of us: Gwangju. In case you missed it, in the summer of 2013 there was a screen capture of a KakaoTalk conversation that described an incident where someone was abducted and had their kidney removed. The victim, who was “a friend of a friend,” entered a taxi to go home, but the ride took a wrong turn. He was drugged via a syringe in the neck and later found himself abandoned in a field upon waking up. He was taken to the hospital and told his kidney had been removed. This KakaoTalk screenshot went viral and had thousands of likes and shares on Facebook.

Some people took this news seriously. There was even a report that an elderly woman was worried about her husband who was drunk and coming home in the back of a taxi. She warned him about the kidney harvesting ring. Right then, the drunk, middle-aged man jumped out of the moving taxi and broke his arm.

Hoaxes like these are popular in Korea and usually sprout up in the summertime, spreading across cyberspace to give people goosebumps. None are based on any hard facts, but their sensational nature is what attracts people and gets them to share these stories. Organ-harvesting hoaxes have been around in Korea for years, but this black-market taxi tale gained quite a bit of notoriety. It originated in Gwangju and was widely reported in reputable news outlets.

Thankfully, local police departments investigated this supposed crime ring and found no evidence of its existence. Not only was this urban legend put to rest, but it also restored our beloved city of Gwangju’s reputation as a safe place to live.

As passengers, most of us can feel a sense of relief knowing that fast and sometimes reckless driving are the only real fears to have in the back of a taxi.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *