With the increasing juvenile crimes and increasing public opinion toward tightening the Juvenile Law, what direction should the Juvenile Law take? Let's find out with ST. .......... Ed
Several years ago, the public opinion that the Juvenile Law must be reformed prevailed. Different types of Juvenile Law exist, but the punishments are ineffective. The reason for this is that the lawbreakers are minors and the light punishments are not equivalent to the violent acts that they have committed. ‘Fairness’ is the main value of law. Does the current Juvenile Law guarantee the value of fairness?
Korea enforces the Juvenile Law for the purpose of protecting and educating teenagers who are under 18 years old. They are punished relatively lightly even if they committed a crime the same level as that of an adult. According to the law, teenagers between 10~14 years old are declared voluntary probation. Meanwhile, teenagers between 14~19 years old will be subject to Juvenile Law so they are sentenced to a maximum of 15 years imprisonment even if the crime level is relative to death penalty or life imprisonment. As the juvenile crimes of teenagers arise, the public’s demand to reform the Juvenile Law makes headlines. According to Realmeter, a research specialized institute, 8 in 10 people agreed with strengthening the level of punishment through a bill to reform the Juvenile Law in response to the violence that occurred in Suwon.
Recently, reforming the Juvenile Law is a controversial issue. In March, 7 teenagers aged 13 years old, including the driver, hit a part-time job man and killed him. They were classified as teenagers, so they were under protective disposition, not punished as criminals. A lot of people were upset because of the demeanor of the teenagers after the accident. They said, “We did not hit him on purpose, and there are other people who drive without a license.” In addition, the assailants were let off without warning, except for 1 person among the 7 in the group. The main reason that ‘Juvenile Law’ poses problems is that the acts are severe and not different from the crimes committed by adults. A representative example of this is the ‘Pusan mob violence’ that took place on September 1, 2017 in a factory where 4 teenagers attacked another teen. They caused severe damage to the victim, which would take around 3 weeks to recover. Two weeks prior to the incident, the assailants attacked as a mob because of the reason that the victim consistently reported them to the police. Only 3 of the 4 teenagers were sent to a reformatory.
Juvenile crimes are not decreasing; instead they are getting worse. Before looking into the real effect of Juvenile Law, it is important to take into consideration the victim’s rights, which will make the Juvenile Law more ‘fair.’
Park Yoo-bin (ST Reporter)