Fear Lurking in the Streets1)
On July 21, a man wielding a knife on the street near Sillim Station caused one death and three injuries. After the incident, posts noticing further attacks have been posted on various websites, along with several posts disparaging women and forewarning that women only will be attacked. In this way, crimes that have unspecified characteristics, such as unclear motives or no connection between the victim and the perpetrator, are called "abnormal motive crimes." After that incident, on August 3, another man also committed a similar crime at a department store near Seohyeon Station that injured nine people. Before using a knife, the man drove car into the sidewalk, causing five casualties. For these crimes, Bae Sang-hoon, a professor of the department of police administration at Woosuk University, said, "Psychologically unstable people imitate the crime as an 'exit' for their anger that they have suppressed after learning about other people's abnormal crimes." He mentioned the suspect's weak mind and imitation crime as the causes of the increase in abnormal motivation crimes. Some of the perpetrators had been suffering from mental disorders such as paranoid delusions. When a mentally unstable person sees web posts calling for indiscriminate murder or articles about actual abnormal motivational crimes, it acts as a trigger for more crime. Citizens' anxiety about these crimes is increasing as one case seems to catalyze another.
The government is aware of the seriousness of abnormal motivation crimes and is preparing measures to prevent them. On August 23, Prime Minister Han Duk-su announced methods to prevent their recurrence. He stated that they are considering the introduction of a judicial hospitalization system since suspects of those crimes have often been diagnosed with mental illness. This system lets a court or a quasi-judicial agency composed of mental health experts and judges decide whether a suspect with severe mental illness should be hospitalized. If this system to keep public order is introduced, patients can also be hospitalized and treated even if they are not aware of their disorders. On the one hand, it is pointed out that the judicial hospitalization system is a measure to prevent recurrence, but the prevention rate is minimal. In addition, it presupposes that unstable mental conditions unconditionally lead to violent crimes, fueling discrimination against mentally ill people. Some argue that in order to prevent these crimes, it is necessary to focus on not only the mental illness of the suspect, but also the extent of their social isolation. Social isolation can increase loneliness and delusion, which leads to crime. In preventing abnormal motivational crimes involving personal and social structural factors, it seems not only criminal policies but also welfare policies to eliminate fundamental causes need to be prepared.
1) Gwon A-hyeon, "The Reason Why 'Motiveless Crime' Are Rising That Experts Analyze", Weekly Chosun, August 6, 2023