A few months ago, in Asan, Chungnam, four middle school girls detained a peer and forced her into prostitution. Needless to say, it aroused a great stir in society. The problem of teen violence seems to be unending. Violent incidents in Asan, Busan, and Gangneung are all concerns that have pushed people to rethink social attitudes. At the moment, Korean law stipulates that minors under the age of 14 cannot be charged for criminal offenses and as such, do not face criminal punishment. For this reason, many perpetrators are protected under the law despite committing heinous crimes. This result has brought about public demand for change to the current law and the repeal of the Juvenile Protection Act. On September 13, more than 260,000 people signed a petition campaign aimed at abolishing the Juvenile Protection Act on the homepage of Blue House.
Under the current law, a minor in Korea is defined as being insufficient for judgment and incompetent to defend their legal rights. However, the law does not account for maturity among youths. Unlike in the past, current juvenile delinquents are of high intellect and partake in crime that is well planned and organized. They become insensitive to their responsibilities as citizens of the nation, and with heightened aggressiveness, they lessen their feelings of guilt. The problem is worsened by the fact that teenager perpetrators are committing more and more violent serial crimes and not being convicted because of the law. Some of the words irresponsibility spoken by the teen offenders in the Gangneung case are “Time will solve this. The public will forget”, “The crime will be buried under tons of other social issues”, and “I’m going to be a Facebook star for our crime!” The teens appealed to the law, their juvenile rights, and for protection from psychological damages. The original purpose of the juvenile law was to protect minors, not free perpetrators. Indeed, teens need protection, but offenders who do not show remorse and know what they were doing at the time, do not. Therefore, there is an urgent need to modify the current law so that it reflects present-day reality.
Not only the law itself, but also problem exist on law implementation. Use of any modified law will need to be monitored to ensure it is not used for unwarranted investigation of school violence, juvenile delinquency, and unfair trials. Juvenile delinquency often brings about retaliatory crimes because of flaws in the investigation process. To address such issues, there will be a need to establishment a minor criminal investigation manual and monitor the judicial process carefully. If law enforcement does not progress properly, the same side effects will occur repeatedly, regardless of law reform.
Ryu Jiwoo, “A String of Rape Attacks on Middle School Girls, “What Will Happen to The Movement to Revise The Juvenile Protection Act?””, SISUN News, September 7, 2017
Lim Byung-Do, “10 Things to Know Before You Dissolve ‘The Juvenile Law’”, OhmyNews, September 7, 2017