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April 2009


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

It’s Bear Bile and That Ain’t No Bull

istock_000002480272xsmallBy Allan Lengel

By most estimations, most folks wouldn’t risk going to jail for this.

But Seongja Hyun, a Korean national living in Los Angeles, isn’t like most folks. She  faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on federal charges of  importing nearly a kilogram of bear bile harvested in China, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Hyun, a who was arrested late last month,  was charged with the illegal importation of wildlife in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the investigation began last month when Customs and Border Protection agents seized a package at the U.S. Postal Service San Francisco International Mail Facility.

The package, which came from China, contained  ” four bags of a dark green crystalline substance believed to be bear bile, along with empty vials and labels for the bear bile”, authorities charged.

After Hyun received the package, federal agents interviewed the South Korean woman, who admitted selling the bile to other people, authorities said.  Investigators also found additional bear bile, vials and packaging.

“Bear bile is typically extracted from living bears kept in cages in China and other countries by inserting a tube into the bear’s gallbladder,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release. ” Bear bile is considered by some to be a medicinal product and is typically consumed to treat various ailments or to act as an aphrodisiac.”

Bears are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a treaty that has been signed by more than 150 countries, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

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