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Media Reports Encouraging Copycat Crimes
  • By Seo Ji-min, reporter
  • 승인 2023.10.04 01:15
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On September 12, Choi Yoon- jong, a murderer, stated that he planned to commit the crime after seeing a report on the Busan Spin Kick incident, causing a big stir. The Busan Spin Kick incident was a case in which a man in his 30s assaulted a woman in her 20s with a spin kick and tried to sexually assault her in May last year. In addition, Choi Yoon- jong was found to have read a number of media articles related to recent felonies in the stage of criminal planning, and a memo was found on Choi Yoon- jong's mobile phone vowing to commit the crime, such as, "Those who have courage take over beauty." Choi Yoon- jong is accused of assaulting a woman with brass knuckles and strangling her to death on the 17th of last month on the Mokgolsan Mountain hiking trail in Sillim-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul.

When Choi Yoon- jong was found to have planned the crime by reading articles that dealt with sex crimes in the past and spreading CCTV footage of the incident through the internet, netizens criticized the media for reporting the incident, causing it to turn in an inappropriate direction and inducing copycat crimes. In addition to Choi Yoon- jong, the Seohyun Station stabbing incident in August copied the Sillim Station stabbing incident in July, and the Sillim Station stabbing incident also copied the Gangnam Station murder incident in June 2016. As can be seen from the aforementioned incidents, criminals sometimes conceive of their crimes by indirectly experiencing incidents committed by other criminals, when planning crimes. Offenders plan crimes based on direct experience elements accumulated through voluntary learning, but by referring to other criminals' methods, they plan them in a way that complements them. In this case, the crime can be conceived more closely through precedent and the likelihood of achieving the crime increases, resulting in more dangerous consequences.

These copycat crimes are also closely related to the way the media reported the incident. Recently, crime reports in the media have tended to highlight only the brutality of the case with the aim of attracting public attention. According to the Bridge Economic Media Survey, 93% of the articles on the murder case only covered the crime, and only 7% of the articles mentioned the fundamental problem of the case and measures to prevent recurrence. In response, Choi Eun- kyung, a professor at Hanshin University, strongly criticized, "The media companies are completely debunking someone's death and reproducing it as 'newsworthy' while forgetting the press ethics charter and reporting rules. It is questionable whether the suspect's identity, vivid description of the murder scene, murder tools, and murder process are valuable news. We should refrain from detailed and provocative reporting on felony crimes." Media reports, which are simply bent on portraying violent incidents to attract the attention of the crowd, further stimulate prospective criminals' desire to commit copycat crimes, and are also used as preliminary investigation data for criminals in planning crimes. It is good to report for the purpose of raising public awareness in criminal cases that have caused social confusion, but this should not be the starting point for copycat crimes.

Media coverage is essential to guarantee the people's right to know in a democratic society. However, the media should also take moral responsibility as a factor that greatly affects the formation of public citizenship and social change. Therefore, in consideration of the characteristics of the media exposed to various people, it is necessary to avoid sensationally describing events directly when dealing with violent incidents, and to establish a direction for institutional improvement or future-oriented stories based on the event.

By Seo Ji-min, reporter  jmseo1215@naver.com

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