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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Thoughts around the serial killings

It's already five days since Yu Yông-ch'ôl (Yoo Young-chul), the confessed serial killer of more than 20, was arrested.

• The "responsibility of the society" is taken up; what is wrong with the Korean society as horrible things like this happen? No interest for one's neighbors, estrangement even from one's family members. (When Koreans wan't to point out that the Korean family relations are superior over those of the West, they say that over there, even family members are "others" or "strangers" (nam) to each other.) This calling for a more communitarian life can be seen even in the Hankyoreh editorial (in English). (Now that I see, Chosun Ilbo writes its editorial (in English) as in refute of Hankyoreh's one, saying it's worrisome that reasons and blame are so eagerly sought from society.) Kyunghyang's editorial doesn't accept solely social reasons for the murders, but asks for social/structural measurers to prevent such happening.
불행의 원인을 모두 외부환경 탓으로 돌리며 19명이나 살인을 한 피의자의 범죄를 엄중히 다뤄야 함은 두말할 필요도 없다. 하지만 사회 전반적인 분위기가 이런 범죄를 유발할 수 있었던 것은 아닌지 짚어볼 필요가 있다. 이 범죄가 충동적인 일회성 범죄가 아니라 오랜 기일에 걸쳐 누적된 소외감과 사회 복수심에서 비롯된 ‘반복범죄’라는 점은 우리 사회가 전반적으로 병들어 있다는 사실을 보여주는 것이기 때문이다. 화성 연쇄살인사건에 이어 지존파, 막가파 사건 등에 이은 이번 사건은 우리 사회의 병리현상이 시민의 안전을 위협하는 수준으로 악화되고 있음을 뜻한다. 나 자신과 가족도 언제 어디서든지 불특정 다수를 겨냥한 증오범죄의 희생자가 될 수 있다.
따라서 건강한 사회를 만들기 위한 우리 모두의 노력이 시급하다. 우선 소외감·좌절감을 느끼는 사람들이 사회적 변화에 적응할 수 있는 제도적 장치를 마련하는 것이 요구된다. 아울러 극단적 이기주의, 인명경시, 물질만능주의 등을 타파하기 위한 사회 전반의 노력이 종합적으로 추구되어야 할 시점이다. 각종 제도마련에 따른 사회의 건강성이 보장되지 않는 한 이러한 유형의 범죄는 언제라도 되풀이될 수 있는 잠복성을 갖고 있기 때문이다.

If there is talk about Korean society gone sick or lost its communal values, I cannot but question when the time of good community living has been? As close in time as during Chun Doo-hwan's or Park Chung-hee's time? Cannot possibly be... But ironically enough, when a newspaper like Hankyoreh, which hardly wants to admit any human progress for the time of Park Chung-hee's presidency, criticizes the competition and individualism of the contemporary society, it will not decrease the nostalgy many feel for the Park years.
• The talk of Yoo going for a killing spree out of revenge towards the rich isn't very convincing, even though it's evident that "social reasons" have played an important part in what Yoo ended up being. He has spent most of his youth and adulthood in correctional facilities. The old people he killed were wealthy, the main reason those particular persons died was that Yoo measured he wouldn't get caught: weak people, living alone in detached houses. And the prostitutes were people who few would miss if they went missing.

• The old people that Yoo killed last year all lived in detached houses, usually called chut'aek (jutaek). While these people may have been wealthy, these murders will add to the negative image of detached houses and increase the gap in preference (and price) between detached housing and apartments.

• The life of a prostitute is cheap, a sad thing which still shouldn't surprise nobody. These are people nobody looks for if they are forcibly sold or murdered (except for the pimp who will look for his/her property). At least ten call-girls had gone missing, but the police said not a single report of a missing person had been filed.
(Once again I feel pissed for seeing Korea one level higher than my own country in the US government human trafficking report, and I'm one who's been diligent in correcting many Koreans' overtly rose-tinted image of Finland.)
• The incompetence of Korean police; again, thing that few are surprised of. Yoo was actually caught by the podobang keepers, that is pimps, who went to track the caller after whose calls two women had already disappeared. Police came to the spot only later. It was also told that police argued on the place for one hour over the identity of the arrested and over the honor for arresting him. "Why police is criticized even though it cought Yoo" (Ohmynews, Korean)
Update. The talk about abolishing death penalty in ROK will most likely be silenced, which is a pity. For a long time I've been hoping that South Korea would join the ranks of civilized nations and abolish death penalty, but now the too silent voices for the abolition will grow even weaker. During Kim Dae-jung's presidency no executions were carried out, which itself is positive. (Searching a bit more from KINDS, at the end of KDJ's term there were 56 inmates in death row; after that two people have been given a death sentence early this year in a cult sect murder case. During the last few years law bills for the abolition has been introduced at least a couple of times (one in November 2001), but no progress has been done.

Articles on the subject:
Chosun Ilbo

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