Occasionally, we sold stolen gasoline to gas stations, and on top of that, we taught them how to fiddle with the meters so they could save thousands of dollars in taxes – of which we charged only 25%. Because the gasoline was stolen, we could sell it cheap, and the gas station owners would make even more money! A win-win situation and the insurance companies paid for it!
I remember one night we did this particular job – The Gas Job. For one of the involved drivers, it was fatal.
It was late one Sunday night in the Port of Ulsan. As often before, we got a tip from an insider, this time from a man in a refinery, that eight tanker trucks were loaded and ready for shipment early Monday morning. We quickly got eight drivers and eight armed guards ready, which meant two persons in each truck. I wasn’t meant to do anything on this job. I was in because of curiosity. And of course, because I wanted to be in on the action, and you know… the feeling of being part of something bigger was important to me.
We arrived at the gas company at 2 AM.
We had a new ‘door opener’ on this job. His job was to secure access to the garage with the trucks. It was a simple job. No alarms. Only a few door locks to pick, and then we would open the gates from the inside and drive off with the trucks. The guards who might circulate would simply be knocked out and gagged silently.
Unfortunately, another rival gang got the same idea. They probably had another insider who gave them information about the trucks, so the doors were already open when we arrived.
Now, beginning a shootout wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do. The guards would be alarmed as well as the police and it would instantly create a messy situation.
There is only one way to do this, I said.
Everybody stays here in the front office. Take cover and don’t be seen.
Seo-jun guessed my plan quickly, and after hiding sixteen men in the office, Seo-jun and I went to work.
They haven’t started the trucks yet, which means they probably haven’t found the keys. They would be in a metal cabinet in the transport manager’s office.
We could hear the men talking and searching. They were throwing things and walking confused around in the manager’s office.
First, Seo-jun swept the ground floor while I did the first floor. I only ran into two men, but I managed to knock them out silently. They never noticed what hit them.
Likewise, Seo-jun rendered three men incapacitated.
But there could still be as many as fifteen men inside the manager’s office searching for the keys.
That’s when I noticed the service room and got an idea! I immediately went in and grabbed the vacuum cleaner. Threw my jacket on a shelf, grabbed a name tag, attached it to my shirt, put on some blue latex gloves, and made myself look a little more like an official cleaning lady.
Then I simply started the vacuum cleaner in the hallway outside the office and began cleaning the floor as if nothing unusual was going on. I should add I hate cleaning and I’m bad at it, but cleaning wasn’t the main objective here after all. Distraction was!
First man opened the door and looked around, trying to pinpoint the source of the noise, but Seo-jun was over him in the blink of an eye. One more down, and soon after, the next man made his appearance through the door. He looked at me, trying to find out what the hell was going on. But as soon as he entered the hallway, Seo-jun took him down too.
It’s incredible how little you need to communicate when you know people well. Seo-jun and I had practised a lot together, and we were almost able to read each other’s minds. Or at least each other’s intentions. He knew exactly what I had in mind and adapted as fast as lightning.
Five guys later, they probably noticed something was wrong because nothing more happened.
I hate to be the one without initiative, so I took the vacuum cleaner and went directly into the room. I would play dumb and innocent until I was close enough to take out a few of them. There were only five men left. Probably the drivers because they were unarmed. Luckily, they seemed to have no intentions of putting up a fight, so I found some cables, and we tied them up. Nice and easy.
I went back to the front office.
All clear! We need the locksmith for the cabinet with the car keys, I shouted.
We all went back, the lock expert opened the cabinet, and the drivers got their keys.
Fifteen minutes later, all the trucks were driving away, and I got a ride in the last truck that left the refinery.
I have no bloody idea what happened next. We were all smoking cigarettes – that might be considered stupid in a gas truck, but it was very common at that time, and technically it should be harmless because the gasoline is isolated in the tank.
I had my window rolled down when a massive explosion lifted the back of the truck high in the air, and I was thrown out of the window while the burning truck – or what was left of it still moved forward.
I took a regular nosedive, but in the last split second, I managed to land on my shoulder instead of my nose without inflicting too much pain. It all went so fast that I didn’t have time to panic.
When I got up, I noticed the guard in the truck also managed to get out, but his clothes caught fire when he opened the door. Luckily, he knew what to do, so he threw himself on the ground and started rolling. I quickly took off my jacket and ran over, trying to help him put out the fire by covering him with my coat and in a few seconds, he was on his feet unharmed.
You all right? I asked.
Yeah, man! I’m on fire! He talked calmly as if he routinely jumped out of burning cars.
That’s when I noticed a second explosion that eradicated the truck’s entire front. The night felt almost like day, illuminated by the inferno with flames towering as high as the surrounding office buildings!
The other trucks continued driving, but Seo-jun was driving behind us in his car and had stopped. He ran as close to the burning wreck as he possibly could, but it was way too hot, and he couldn’t get near it. The driver died. Probably in the second explosion.
There was nothing we could do, so we drove off in Seo-jun’s car. The police would be here soon.
At the garage, we repainted the trucks with a thin layer of fast-drying paint that would only stick for a few days.
We also had to get the gas to the stations as soon as possible because the trucks would register as stolen the next day. Two hours later, we were headed in each direction to deliver gasoline to our distributors in the nearby cities.
After delivery, we drove to the mountains and set fire to the trucks to cover our tracks. Then we walked a few miles to the nearest house, stole a car, and drove back to Seoul – which was a bloody long drive!
It took several hours, and it was almost noon when we returned, quite exhausted