Heavy fine bears the weight of wrongdoing

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

Coquitlam acupuncturist found guilty for trafficking animal parts

By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter

With an ever-growing concern for wildlife and animals, it’s worrying to hear about a case in which a local woman has been bypassing all ethical standards by searching and purchasing bear claws, bladders, and deer meat. After more than a year of investigation, local acupuncturist Yunhee (Sarah) Kim has been handed a heavy fine of $22,400. She was aided by Yon Kim, the co-accused and unrelated to former Kim.

Back in October 2014, the Yellowstone Country Bear Hunters Association received a call from Yon, who was looking for bear gall bladders. One of the members reached out to the state’s fish and wildlife authority, who chatted with the Yon about the situation. Yon clearly stated to the authorities that though it was illegal, she desperately needed the bladders to take care of her son’s epilepsy.

BC Conservation Officers were then contacted and an investigation began underway. Contact was established between an officer, posing as a hunter, and Yon Kim, as plans were made to meet at a Canadian Tire in Merritt. During correspondence, the officer noted that trading bear parts were illegal, but Yon Kim justified her purchase by noting that, while she didn’t like having bears killed, in her opinion people were much more important.

By the end of October, Yon Kim and Sarah Kim had met with the officer and bought $750 worth of gallbladders and paws. During their trade-off, Sarah expressed her need for as much gallbladders as she could get her hands on. Within the following month, the officer met with Sarah at her clinic in Coquitlam and sold $540 worth of animal parts—two gallbladders, four paws, and six cuts of deer meat. December brought around another round of deer meat sold for $100 to Sarah.

Three months later, an undercover Vancouver police officer went to Sarah’s clinic in the hopes of being sold some bear parts. He described various symptoms and begged for treatments of any sort, but was given an herbal fix to recover. In a final plea, he suggested that he heard bear bile might help him. Though Sarah stated that the trading of bear parts was illegal, she eventually gave in to the officer’s request and claimed she could help him for $1,000. Two weeks later, she sold him two shots of bear bile-infused vodka for $100. After completion of the sale, Sarah was arrested on-site.

While Sarah has accumulated recognition through her volunteerism in the community, as well as being a supporter of local charities, and a woman without a criminal record, her reputation will likely be tainted due to her offence. While Yon Kim has yet to submit a plea, Sarah Kim pleaded guilty back in November of 2015 with fines finalized recently.

Pertaining to the investigation, Judge Thomas Woods shared his opinion with the Province on the matter of risking protected wildlife.

“When offending like Sarah Kim’s intrudes the into protected zone and results in the harvesting of bear parts, all members of society in some measure suffer,” he states.

“Exploiting protected wildlife for a business purpose in a way that subordinates the integrity of that resource and its place in our society reflects callous disregard for the harm that results from the offending.”