I was shocked to hear that the suspect of the consecutive murder incident in Hwaseong, which is the Korea’s three major long-term unsolved murders incident, has been pointed, on September 19th. It is Lee Chun-jae who is responsible for matching DNA found in three out of 10 cases. There are 15 victims he killed, and 30 sex crimes he confessed to. The current situation is that he cannot be punished due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. He is serving a prison term in Busan for another murder, not a serial Hwaseong murder case, but avoided punishment for numerous other cases. I wondered if the situation was legitimate. It was also hard to understand that the term was originally set for heinous crimes.
First, the statute of limitations is a system that does not allow a prosecution to be raised for a crime after a certain period of time. After a certain period of time, the government’s right to punish crime is completely extinguished. Therefore, if the statute of limitations is completed, even if a person commits a crime, he or she will not be subject to investigation or indictment. In 2015, a revision to the Criminal Procedure Act was passed to abolish the statute of limitations for murder, under the so-called “Taewani Act,” but it was not applicable to previous cases. The Hwaseong serial murder case is also an incident in which the statute of limitations has already expired and cannot be applied to the “Taewani Act.”
Even if you commit a horrible crime of murder, you can live as a commoner if you wait until the statute of limitations expires. During that time, citizens’ fears of untold secondary damage and untold criminals continue to accumulate, including the resentment and grief of the victim’s family. Despite the endless damage, the criminal would not be punished since a certain period have passed. I was curious why the statute of limitations existed. The background of the introduction of the statute of limitations includes difficulty in determining evidence, ensuring the livelihood of defendants. Also, considering opportunities for criminals to return to society were the significant reason. Some also argue that the concentration of resources in past issues hinders the handling of pending issues.
The finding of the true culprit in the Hwaseong serial murder incidents proved that it is not impossible even if a long time has passed. Evidence still exists and it could be compromised. The case also brought together two unsolved murders of a female high school student in Suwon. As such, the search for the real criminal has solved a lot of unsolved cases. However, even though there are as many as 15 victims of the murder, the statute of limitations on the last case in the past has been applied, and Lee is being punished for only one case. I think it is unfair to punish him by a single incident.
First, we can find unfairness in setting the statute of limitations based on the last 10 cases of serial killings on Hwaseong. If a criminal was caught after committing several heinous crimes, it would be fair to spend more effort and time to find the end. Killing people is definitely a big crime. However, continuing to kill several people would be a bigger crime and more effort would be needed to find the culprit.
Among the reasons behind the introduction of the statute of limitations was a weakening of social interest. Social attention continued because the serial killings on Hwaseong were constantly reminded on the public with the movie Memories of Murder. This case is not the only one. Also, ending the investigation on the grounds that social attention has been removed is another injury to the victims and their families.
A criminal’s return to society is what happens when a criminal is ready for socialization. It does not mean they have just finished their sentence. Also, the return of an unpunished criminal to society poses a threat to the community. Therefore, the government should take action at the time when it is on the rise.
Hyun Gi-seong email@example.com
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