In April last year, an incident occurred in which a delivery motorcycle driver was hit by a car and was killed. The reason why this accident drew more attention was that the person who drove the vehicle at fault was a 13-year-old boy at the time. If the perpetrator was an adult, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment in maximum. However, criminal punishment was impossible by law as he was a minor under the age of 14. Many people were angry that a young man in his early 20s had to unfortunately end his life and the perpetrator was not punished appropriately for the crime. As cases of violent crimes committed by minors have been reported in the media, there is a growing demand for the abolition of the temporary Juvenile Act. It is a law which stipulates that minor under the age of 14 are not subject to criminal punishment.
However, it is questionable whether the claim to abolish the Juvenile Act, which stems from the felony cases of juveniles in the media, is reasonable. What we see in the media are special cases selected among numerous events in the world. Therefore, we cannot say that violent crimes, which are the basis for the abolition of the Juvenile Act, account for most of the crimes committed by minors. Except for a small number of serious crimes, the purpose of protecting minors under the Juvenile Act, which aims at edification rather than punishment, is still necessary in consideration of the immature judgment of minor’s behavior. Looking at the Juvenile Act itself, I think it is a hasty judgment to completely abolish it because the purpose of the law is reasonable.
However, opposing the abolition of the Juvenile Act does not mean agreeing to maintaining the current law. It is true that intensive criminal acts by minors continue to occur as in the case mentioned above. Therefore, the direction of application of the law must be changed. In the case of recidivism and cases of serious crimes such as murder, theft, and rape, we need to apply the law differently. In addition, it is necessary to prepare a plan to punish criminals who abuse the Juvenile Act. In order to prevent the increase of juvenile crime cases, there must be changes of the law such as classification of the scope and target of the Juvenile Act according to the circumstances.
Also, in the case of crimes such as school violence and sexual violence between peers, if the perpetrator is under the age of 14 without criminal responsibility, the victim is also a minor in most cases. In order to apply the logic of protecting the perpetrators because they are young, there should be a way to protect victims as well. As such, the Juvenile Act still needs to be corrected and supplemented.
It would be difficult to give a clear answer in law. Enabling criminal punishment for expedited juveniles through the unconditional repeal of the Juvenile Act is not the best solution. I think the best way is to reinforce and modify the law at the same time, and teach minors to take responsibility for their actions. In addition, I think rather than discussing only the level of punishment, efforts to find and prevent fundamental causes of the occurrence of juvenile crimes are also needed.
Byeon Ju-yeong email@example.com
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