Recently, incidents of juvenile violent crimes such as the assault in Busan of a middle school girl are continuously occurring. Consequently, interest in juvenile law is increasing. Juvenile law is a law enacted for prescribing juvenile protective disposition and for the healthy growth of youths. Young offenders are characterized by immature mental growth and are easier to reform than adult offenders because their habit of crime is not as deep, so they are differentiated from adult offenders. However, there is a strong voice to toughen up juvenile punishment by increasing the number of cases of abuse of the law. When minors commit serious crimes, they don’t receive serious punishment because they are young. Delinquents even know themselves, that punishment is weak, so they abuse the law. Some say the current law is not effective in preventing crime and the people protected by the law are the young criminals and not the victims. In this situation, a majority of people are furious and they suggest abolishing juvenile law. But others disagree.
People who wish to abolish it say, “Recently, juveniles have easy access to social information which leads to premeditated crimes. Premeditated crimes shouldn’t be subject to protection. Juvenile crimes are becoming more serious and cruel. Also, victims who should be protected by the law aren’t well-protected and it is the perpetrators who are the ones getting protection from it.” They also demand stricter laws for protecting human rights or abolishing the juvenile law. Furthermore, some claims to tighten up the penalty levels may lead to criminals acting carefully. They may commit a crime without worry because they know they will receive minor punishment, so they may act more vicious than adults. Even though perpetrators cause victims to suffer from deep scars, they receive a very slight degree of punishment such as being transferred to another school or being suspended. Therefore, the majority of people call for abolishing or improving the law.
However, other people oppose abolishing juvenile law because they think we can change young offenders by remediation or reformation. Making a black mark against a juvenile just takes away the reformation opportunity and the pattern of young offenders could lead to them becoming adult offenders later on. Also, if Korea violates the United Nations convention on the rights of children, Korea will face a great deal of criticism and disadvantages. Minors have many limits but assuming the same responsibilities as adults is reverse discrimination. If we abolish the law, we should treat juveniles as adults and therefore all children should be given the right to legally buy alcohol, exercise their right to vote, etc. and they can’t be protected by the law. There are also arguments that abolishing the juvenile law will not solve the fundamental problem of juvenile violence, so they claim that it would be better to lean towards revising it instead of abolition for the sake of juvenile protection.
Because of these reactions, President Moon initiated a formal discussion. Mr. Moon said, “We have to actively discuss the matter because we have to gather social opinions regarding whether it is necessary to revise the juvenile law and lower the age of criminal liability,” Following that he added, “I want to draw up measures which aim to eradicate school violence. I hope that this discussion will serve as momentum to revise the juvenile law and draw up measures against school violence.” Each political party moves towards the demands of public opinion, but there will be side-effects to the revision, so the government can’t decide this easily. Kim Sang-gon the Minister of Education emphasized, “It is important to create an efficient prevention system so that there isn’t a recurring of cruel juvenile incidents.” And he requested for the Minister of Justice to examine the revision necessity and juvenile remediation or reformation for preventing second convictions. Also, Park Sang-ki, the Minister of Justice said, “Revising the law affects all laws of the system, so we will examine it carefully.”
With lawmakers in conflict, people’s attention is on the government’s decision. But the commonality between these two opinions is that the current law does not properly protect children. Therefore, the law should be revised as soon as possible to benefit the youth and everyone.
|The public's reaction to the abolition of juvenile law is divisive|
Choi Ga-Yun, reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
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