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Old Man Died By Eight-Year-Old; Controversy Over 'Juvenile Law'
  • By Seo Ji-min, reporter
  • 승인 2023.12.03 23:45
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▲ Free source image of stone throwing in high-rise apartment buildings

On the 17th, an apartment resident in his 70s, who was walking up the stairs while helping his wife, who had an uncomfortable leg, was hit in the head by a stone falling from the height of the 10th floor at an apartment in Wolgye- dong, Nowon- gu, Seoul. A police investigation found that the person who threw the stone was an eight- year- old boy, a friend of an elementary school student living in the apartment. In addition, the fact that the perpetrator is excluded from all punishments even though it is an accidental death because he is under the age of 10 is also known through the media, and controversy over the 'Juvenile Law' among netizens is heating up again.

Under the current law, the subject of juvenile trials can be divided into three categories according to age groups. Those under the age of 10 are classified as 'law- breaking minors,' those between the ages of 10 and 14 are classified as 'criminal minors,' and those between the ages of 14 and 19 are classified as 'juvenile offenders.' According to the current law, criminal punishment is not possible for so- called criminal minors, between the ages of 10 and 14, however, those under the age of 10 are classified as law- breaking minors and are excluded from all kinds of punishments, including protective measures. However, if the damage caused by the boy is proven to have a significant causal relationship with the violation of the obligation of the supervisor, that is, the legal guardian, the guardian may be held liable for damages in accordance with Articles 750 and 755 of the Civil Code.

As the legal content became widely known, netizens resented that the perpetrator should be punished privately, and various SNS and online communities were full of posts speculating on the personal information of the elementary school student. At a mom's cafe in Wolgye- dong, where the incident took place on the 21st, posts were posted directly about the name of the apartment and what complex the perpetrator lived in, and another Instagram account posted a post summarizing the perpetrator's data - posts that assumed the identity of the elementary school student were indiscriminately spread. It seems that some citizens who are angry about the juvenile law are not satisfied with the public punishment and have even carried out private punishment.

This is not the first case that sparked controversy over the age reduction of juvenile law. A similar incident occurred in 2015. In 2015, a 9- year- old boy threw bricks at a woman in her 50s and a man in his 20s who were building a stray cat house on the roof of an apartment in Yongin, Gyeonggi- do, killing the woman and causing the man to have his skull dented. The perpetrator of the case was also classified as a juvenile under the age of 10 and was excluded from criminal punishment as well as protection measures. At that time, there was also a growing public voice that the age should be lowered on the juvenile law, and experts' opinions on this were also divided into two branches. Lee Yoon- ho, a professor of police at Dongguk University, said, "Currently, the Juvenile Act stipulates a compulsory provision that 'punishment is impossible' based on age. However, it is necessary to introduce measures to punish crimes such as murder regardless of age." On the other hand, there is an opinion that simply lowering the punishment age is not everything. Won Hye- wook, a professor at Inha University's School of Law, said, "If we focus only on punishing perpetrators in underage crimes, society's responsibility for causing the crime will disappear. We must first look at whether there are any deficiencies in social and environmental areas," expressing concern.
In order to prevent a recent series of child object throwing incidents, more active education should be provided at home and school. In addition, it is clear that the current situation has changed a lot from 20 years ago when the juvenile law constitutional decision was made, including the development of SNS and the development of education and social aspects. Considering these points and public sentiment, additional social discussions are needed to lower the age of legal punishment in the case of serious crimes that deliberately threaten the lives of others.

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

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