DANVILLE — After several months of investigation from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Bureau and State Parks Bureau, in conjunction with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Ki Pil Park and Jaemyung Yoo of Chicago, pleaded guilty to several ginseng related charges.
On July 4, 2018 Park and Yoo were stopped just outside Geode State Park for speeding in a minivan registered to Yoo. Upon further investigation, it was discovered Park and Yoo possessed 67 freshly harvested ginseng plants.
DNR Conservation Officer Paul Kay and State Park Ranger Andrew Kuckler interviewed Park and Yoo and determined the ginseng was illegally harvested in Geode State Park.
Neither Park nor Yoo possessed ginseng harvester’s permits. State law prohibits harvesting ginseng on state owned lands. Harvesters must also possess a ginseng harvester’s permit and the season runs from Sept. 1 until Oct. 31 each year.
The officers seized the ginseng plants, along with equipment relating to the digging of ginseng.
Park and Yoo each received state park rules citations and were released.
Photo evidence from a phone revealed Park and Yoo had been in Geode State Park harvesting ginseng, as well as state parks in Wisconsin and Illinois within the last four years. Officer Kay then turned the case over to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for further investigation.
After several months of investigating, Park and Yoo were each charged with 32 ginseng related charges in Iowa. Park and Yoo each pleaded guilty to one count of not possessing a ginseng harvester’s permit, one count of harvesting ginseng on state-owned lands and three counts of harvesting ginseng out of season.
Along with the fines associated with the charges, both Park and Yoo were assessed liquidated damages of 150 percent of the market value of the ginseng they illegally harvested.
The investigation remains ongoing in other states.