The now-shuttered Hanna Korean Restaurant on 5th Street in Courtenay. Google Maps image.

The now-shuttered Hanna Korean Restaurant on 5th Street in Courtenay. Google Maps image.

‘Greed and opportunism’ highlight vulnerabilities in B.C. immigration case

Me Hee Kim owed $352,226 following the purchase of Comox Valley’s now-closed Hanna Korean Restaurant

In an attempt to find a better life for herself and her children, a Korean resident hoping to find permanent residency in the Comox Valley is owed more than $350,000, concluded a B.C. Supreme Court judge in Nanaimo earlier this month.

In his reasons for judgment on March 26, Justice Dev Dley said the case highlights greed and opportunism capitalizing on the vulnerabilities of immigrants who seek residency in Canada.

Me Hee Kim, 51, wanted to immigrate to Canada with her young children and free herself from an abusive marriage in Korea.

One way for Kim to enhance her application for residency was to show that she had a specialized skill that was needed by an existing Canadian business. She agreed to purchase Hana Korean Restaurant (now closed) in September 2013 which was located at 168 5th St. in Courtenay from Ae Sun Choi for $93,000 and to cover operating expenses.

Dley noted Kim had limited life skills and depended upon others to assist her with adapting to life in Canada. He added Kim was seen by her fellow workers to be subservient to Choi, even though Kim was the restaurant owner.

Over the course of the next year, Kim paid more than $380,000 for what Choi said was inventory and operating costs.

When Kim became concerned about the expenses and questioned the fees, Choi locked the doors to the restaurant and ultimately terminated her support of Kim’s residency application. Kim did not receive Canadian residency and has returned to Korea.

Dley explained in his reasons when Kim purchased the restaurant, she did not seek the assistance of an accountant or lawyer, and said she trusted Choi. After signing the purchase agreement, Kim began working in the restaurant but the operation of the business continued to be administered by Choi.

Kim agreed to pay Choi $3,500 per month to run the restaurant. She continued to work in the kitchen and did not venture into the front part as she had no concept as to how to operate the cash register.

“…It defies common sense that the business required a capital injection in excess of $350,000 to cover expenses when there is scant evidence to support such a proposition,” wrote Dley in his reasons.

Dley explained Choi did not receive any significant funds from any source other than Kim. Choi acknowledged that at least $250,000 received from Kim was used to purchase her house on Idiens Way in Courtenay.

In July 2014, Kim sent an email to immigration consultant Brandon Kwak in which she stated it was costing her “a significant amount of money … to keep the restaurant running.”

In October 2014, Kim met with Choi and asked for business records, and indicated she was now going to run the restaurant. One day later, Choi locked the doors and withdrew her support for Kim’s residency application.

“It was obvious to Ms. Choi that Ms. Kim was vulnerable. What may have started out as an arrangement to benefit both parties quickly turned into a predatory scheme to extract money out of Ms. Kim on the pretext that it was necessary to keep the restaurant functioning.”

There was no satisfactory resolution for Kim, and after returning to Korea, she instructed her lawyer to file a complaint of embezzlement against Choi and her husband.

Dley concluded there was no question Choi was enriched. He assed the total amount paid by Kim to be $480,000, but deducted $103,000 for the purchase price and a fee for a “secret sauce,” leading $377,000 as purported operating losses.

He also determined there is a direct connection between the funds advanced by Kim and the Idiens Way property.

Choi bought the home for $455,000 funded partly by a $200,000 mortgage. She admitted that at least $250,000 of money received from Kim went into the purchase of the home, and Kim’s proportionate share of the acquisition costs amount to 56 per cent.

He concluded Choi’s property will be impressed with a constructive trust giving Kim a 56 per cent interest but capped at the monetary amount of the judgment (to ensure Kim does not receive a windfall in the event the property value has increased.)

Dley ordered Choi to pay in Canadian dollars, the amount necessary to purchase 300,000,000 Korean Won ($352,226 CND).



erin.haluschak@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

One of the Choices Lottery grand prize packages includes a home located at 16730 19 Ave., Surrey. (Contributed photo)
Two South Surrey homes featured in Choices Lottery

Tickets on sale now for BC Children’s Hospital lottery

Sources team members (left to right) Carrie Belanger, Abby Gemino, Tatiana Belyaeva, Yasmin de Joya-Pagal cheer during the 2020 Coldest Night of the Year event. This year’s event will be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sources photo)
White Rock’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser goes virtual

Annual walk raises funds for variety of Sources programs and services

An Amica White Rock resident receives the COVID-19 vaccine during a Jan. 15, 2021 clinic. (Tracy Holmes photo)
PHOTOS: South Surrey seniors grateful for ‘freedom’ of COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccination clinics at Fraser Health long-term and assisted-living sites were to wrap up Jan. 15

Fraser Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at a Surrey high-intensity rehabilitation unit, Laurel Place. On Dec. 22, 2020, Fraser Health said four patients and two staff members have tested positive for the virus. (Image: Google Street View)
Fraser Health says COVID-19 outbreak over at Laurel Place in Surrey

Health authority declared outbreak over Jan. 16

Pindie Dhaliwal, one of the organizers for the Surrey Challo protest for Indian farmers. She says organizers were told by Surrey RCMP that the event was not allowed due to COVID-19. Organizers ended up moving the protest to Strawberry Hill at the last minute. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Indian farmers rally moves as organizers say Surrey RCMP told them they couldn’t gather

Protest originally planned in Cloverdale, moved to Strawberry Hill

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Scott Ackles

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

sdf
Another Mission student arrested for assault, in 2nd case of in-school violence this week

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Most Read