Teenagers in Korea are often called--‘the future of their country'. Most students study hard to achieve their dreams and to become a proud member of their country. However, recently, the eyes of Korean citizens were focused on a few teenagers. Crimes were made by those who were not even adults. Students of age 19 and under have shocked the whole country through their cruelty. However, through the juvenile law, their sentences have been, and most likely will be, asked for a reduced sentence. Therefore, the public is currently requiring a modification in the current juvenile law, so that they could properly be punished.
The attention towards Busan and Gangneung
According to the police, two middle school students living in Busan requested an arrest warrant, one on the 11th and another on the 15th. They announced that five students including the two were suspected of the crime. It was told that they assaulted a fellow school student with construction materials, chairs and glass bottles for around an hour and a half. A resident notified the police, but the students pretended to be onlookers and turned themselves in three hours later. An even more shocking fact is that this assault was not even their first incident. They had assaulted the same girl two months ago. However, as the girl reported their wrongdoings to the police, they retaliated on the girl again, this time calling a lot of attention to the whole country.
Due to this incident, another that occurred in July came to the surface. It was reported that six students from Gangneug, who were middle and high school students, assaulted a middle school student for seven hours. Their reasons for the assault was that the victim had not given them the money she needed to give, and told rumors about one of the perpetrators to others. For these reasons, these six students chose not to have a conversation, but to spit, punch and threaten her with scissors. They had also tried to undress her along with sexual harassments. The assailants were indicted without detention, and the victim was diagnosed with a two-week hospitalization, and is currently going through psychotherapy for two months.
Both incidents have a lot in common. All incidents had numerous perpetrators which included them posting their actions on the SNS. The ages of these criminals are getting lower, resulting in growing concerns. A judge who specializes in juvenile crimes, Cheon Jong-ho, also emphasized the current status of teenagers’ SNS. “The students revealed their own crimes in an open space. This shows a huge problem in the characters of the students, and furthermore, the dissolution of their family and society.” He explained that these crimes should be related to other issues of the society as well, not only in the crimes themselves.
Teenage crimes and the juvenile law
The current criminal law prohibits punishment of children under the age of 14. Therefore, an alternative was made to the judge that these children are under the juvenile law. Through this law, juvenile protective disposition can be made for a maximum of two years in the juvenile reformatory. For the teenagers over 14 and under 19 are feasible of a criminal punishment. However, also through this juvenile law, their possible maximum sentence is 20 years.
The assailants of the Busan and Gangneung assault incidents, therefore, will not end up in a prison as a result. However, two different developments are possible. First of all, through the juvenile law, they could be on a teenage trial and result in probation or sent to a juvenile reformatory. In this case, they would not have a criminal record since the juvenile reformatory has a purpose of correcting the actions of a teenage criminal. In another case, they could go through a criminal trial, and end up in a juvenile prison, which is a prison for teenagers between the age of 19 to 23. This is just a prison made to separate them from adult criminals and has the same force as a normal prison. They would, therefore, be sent to a normal prison when they are over the age of 23.
These serious teenage criminals have caused a lot of citizens to protest to modify the juvenile law. However, this problem is a matter that requires a lot of consideration. First of all, we need to clearly identify that the cruelty in teenage crimes is increasing, as it just might be the matter of citizens finding out these crimes more easily because of the SNSs. Second, we also need to find out if teenagers are making critical crimes because of weaker punishments.
Nevertheless, an effective solution must be made. Blindly lowering the age of severe punishment can cause problems to the overall legal system since the age of 19 indicates allowance of new legal activities. Therefore, small adjustments, such as the change in maximum sentences, should be made in order to give the judges more discretion. Teenagers, as the future of our country, should be protected and be led into the right path.