Trans Con Artist Posing as South Korea Casino Heir Gets 12 Years

Posted on: February 14, 2024, 04:16h. 

Last updated on: February 15, 2024, 12:01h.

A female-born con artist who was briefly engaged to one of South Korea’s most beloved sportswomen while identifying as a man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud.

Nam Hyun-hee, 남현희,Jeon Cheong-jo, 전청조, Paradise Group
South Korean Olympic fencing star Nam Hyun-hee and con artist Jeon Cheong-jo in a photoshoot for celebrity magazine Woman Chosun on the occasion of their engagement. The shoot proved to be Jeon’s downfall. (Image: Woman Chosun)

Jeon Cheong-jo, 28, falsely claimed to be a scion of South Korean casino and hotel giant, the Paradise Group, and she courted two-time Olympic fencing medalist Nam Hyun-hee while pretending to be fabulously wealthy.

She also solicited cash for bogus investment opportunities from Nam’s friends and family, as well as numerous other victims.

On Wednesday, the Seoul Eastern Court found Jeon guilty of charges of fraud and forging public and private documents, including fabricating an identity card to pose as a male.

Jeon was found to have conned victims out of 3 billion won ($2.2 million) by presenting herself as an extramarital son of Philip Jeon, who, with his wife, Choi Yoon-jung, owns the Paradise Group.

Magazine Shoot

Jeon wooed potential investors in the bogus schemes by boasting of her influential connections, and hinting at a secret investment strategy known only to the top echelons of South Korean society. And she appears to have been able to flip between gender identities with ease when conducting romance scams with victims of different sexes.

But things began to unravel for Jeon in October when she posed with Nam in Woman Chosun, a glossy celebrity magazine.

The photoshoot was laid on to announce the couple’s engagement, and Nam gushed in the accompanying interview that she had finally found love again after splitting up with her ex-husband, a competitive cyclist. Confusingly, she also claimed to be pregnant with Jeon’s child.

Following the publication of the piece, several people came forward to say they recognized Jeon as a biological woman with convictions for fraud. Many also questioned her familial ties to Paradise, not least the company itself, which issued an official statement refuting her “false” and “damaging” claims.

A police background check confirmed Jeon’s biological sex and criminal record. She had never undertaken the official process that allows an individual to have their gender legally changed in South Korea, and therefore was a woman under South Korean law.

Stalking Arrest

Jeon was arrested in late October, originally on stalking charges. That’s after she turned up at Nam’s mother’s house and began banging on the door because Nam had broken off the relationship.

Nam later said in an interview that she believed her husband-to-be was a transgender man who had undergone gender reassignment surgery. Of the phantom pregnancy, she claimed Jeon had shown her positive pregnancy tests.

Nevertheless, Nam remains under investigation for how much she might have known about Jeon’s fraudulent double life, according to prosecutors.

The case has gripped South Korea, a celebrity-focused society in which homosexuality remains largely taboo and same-sex unions or civil partnerships aren’t recognized.