Recently, the news of a motorcycle crash while driving a stolen car from middle school students in Daejeon on March 29 heated up social media. A college fresher (18) who was working part-time delivery to earn his tuition died on the road after the students ran away after the accident. Even though it was a hit-and-run accident that resulted in a death, the perpetrators were spared criminal punishment for being a "criminal minor(촉법소년)". Besides this, they showed no remorse for their actions. After the accident, a student was in the same car as the assailant only expressed his dissatisfaction with the critical public opinion, saying, "I did not drive, and we did not do it on purpose, why are you cursing when you do not even know it is right?" Through this, we need to rethink the extent to which we understand how we prosecute juvenile crimes.
Under Korean law, criminal punishment cannot be imposed to juveniles 14 or younger, which is below the age of criminal responsibility. According to Article 2 of the Juvenile Act, “Juvenile” refers to a person under 19 years of age. The juvenile law does not focus on the punishment of the criminal law, but puts more weight on the refinement.
According to the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, 2,967 people under the age of 18 among traffic accident offenders account for 1.3 percent of the total. As such, minors are at the center of serious crimes such as sex crimes, school violence, and traffic accidents. Kirby Cho, who took over the chat room from the second-generation operator Jeon in the latest social issue of digital sex crimes, is also a teenage high school student. It is known that nearly 20,000 links to sexual exploits were shared on Cho's Telegram channel, which was called the Link Sharing Room. Police have arrested 51, after detecting 340 people suspected of digital sex crimes a month after the incident. More than 30 percent of these 51 people were surveyed as teenagers, reminding them of the seriousness of juvenile crimes.
Despite the fact that the purpose of the current law is juvenile refinement, the rate of juvenile recidivism is increasing. According to National Police Agency statistics, ages of 14 to 18 who have committed violent crimes over the past five years are 12,024 people. During the same period, the re-crime rate of juvenile probation subjects stood at 12.3 percent, more than double the 5.6 percent rate for adults. The debate about the Juvenile Protection Act now is not a living crime with room for improvement, but rather a case of the abuse of weak punishment or serious crime. If a person commits a crime and is punished leniently just because he or she is young, the responsibility will be further removed.
A growing number of national petitions are calling for tougher punishment of juvenile felonies, even considering the position of crime victims. There are four petitions related to juvenile crimes in the recent Cheong Wa Dae National Bulletin Board, which has more than 200,000 consents and is set to officially respond. There are three petitions related to sex crimes and one petition related to traffic accidents, calling for stern punishment of criminal minors. The number of petitioners totals 2.2 million. On the contrary, some say that while acknowledging the need to revise the juvenile law, the government should take a cautious approach to its direction.
Lim Joon-tae, a professor of Police Administration at Dongguk University, said "Expanding the severity and severity of punishment will have a definite criminal deterrent effect. Recently, teenagers are actively utilizing the Internet and the media, so they can fully distinguish between the right and the wrong of their actions. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that criminal acts will not be committed because of weak punishment.” Lee Jung-woo, the head of the Korea Youth Education Institute, also said, "What is affected when the punishment is strengthened is some teenagers who committed crimes, not the majority of them, and the suppression of juvenile crimes by strengthening the punishment can also be seen as a measure to protect the majority of teenagers.” He added that we need to strengthen the punishment and prepare various education programs for teenagers to take responsibility for themselves, not for the current show-off education in the form that has attracted hundreds of teenagers into the auditorium.
Now, the viciousness and brutality of adolescent crimes are growing very much. Kwak Geum-joo, a psychology professor at Seoul National University, said, "Once you commit a crime, it is difficult to recover from the stigmatization effect. Because of this, teenagers could commit another crime with a feeling of “I am that kind of person.”“ She also said that because they are young, they are easily exposed to criminal impulses, but they are also likely to be able to learn from their mistakes. We need a way to embrace them before they are committing a second offense and becoming a bigger criminal. The CUF(The Catholic University Forum) hopes that in our society, instead of the prejudice of “Once a troublemaker is an eternal troublemaker,” a system will be set up to effectively educate teenagers.