On August 26th, Kang Yoon-sung, a man in his 50s, murdered a woman at his home and fled. He surrendered himself to the police on August 29th after killing another woman. This case (also known as the Kang Yoon-sung case) was shocking than before because Kang committed the crime while wearing an electronic anklet. Furthermore, he easily broke the anklet and flee without any difficulty. He was released from prison in May after serving a prison term for committing an indecent act by force. At that time, the court judged that Kang, who had 14 criminal records, was at high risk of recidivism, and ordered him to wear an electronic anklet for five years. The court also limited activities outside his residence between 11 P.M. to 4 A.M.. Nevertheless, Kang was able to evade court surveillance and commit this cruel crime. We have to ask, how effective is the electronic anklet system and why did it fail in this case?
What is “Electronic Monitoring?”
“Electronic Monitoring” was implemented by the government in September 2008 as a system to protect the public and prevent recidivism of certain criminals convicted of crimes such as sexual violence, kidnapping of minors, murder, and robbery by attaching electronic location tracking devices to the body. People who have to attach the electronic anklet are those who have committed sexual violence crimes more than twice, have committed sexual violence crimes against adolescents and infants under the age of 19, persons with physical or mental disabilities, and those who are at risk of kidnapping, murder, and robbery again. Criminals who are ordered to attach an electronic anklet are subject to probation during the attachment period. They must not damage or separate the electronic anklet from their bodies, interfere with radio waves, or alter received data. Any act that impairs the utility of an electronic anklet is punishable by imprisonment for less than seven years or a fine not exceeding 20 million won.
Damage to electronic anklets has been steadily occurring
Cases of violating the Electronic Monitoring system continued to happen even before the Kang Yoon-sung case. 11 people have damaged electronic anklets this year, and related crimes are occurring every year. For example, on August 21st, in Jangheung, Jeollanam-do Province, Ma Chang-jin, who was wearing the electronic anklet for sexual assault of a minor, cut it off and fled. He abandoned his car near a mountain about 10 kilometers away from his residence and disappeared. However, he was arrested by police 16 days after fleeing.
In addition, in Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do Province, a man in his 40s, broke into a woman’s apartment and attempted to sexually assault her even though he was wearing the electronic anklet. He was caught on August 26th. According to the police, the man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a similar crime in the past, and had to wear the electronic anklet after being released from prison. He was even wearing the electronic anklet at the time of the crime, and it was investigated that he had habitually stolen various items from the victim’s house.
It is difficult to prevent every crime under the current system
Several problems have been found in the current system of Electronic Monitoring. The first problem is about the system and material of the electronic anklet. Suppose a crime is committed at the home of a surveillance subject while wearing the electronic anklet. In that case, there is no way to recognize or prevent it in advance with the current Electronic Monitoring system. This is because the electronic anklet only records the suspect’s location, not what they are doing in live. Despite the electronic anklet material has been strengthened six times since it was implemented in 2008, cases of damaging the electronic anklet are still occurring. Even the electronic anklet worn by Kang was an improved 2020 version of the electronic anklet, making it thicker by seven layers of stainless steel than before. However, he was able to simply cut it off with an industrial cutter.
One of the problems with the current Electronic Monitoring system is that there is not a big enough workforce to handle the task, and even the amount of work to manage electronic monitoring has increased. Therefore, it has become difficult to perform the task. In Korea, there are 4,847 monitoring targets wearing electronic anklets. However, the number of probation officers managing and supervising them is only 281, which is insufficient. In other words, the number of subjects to be managed per one probation officer is 17.3 people. For the actual managing of the Electronic Monitoring system, the efficient division of work by probation officers must be prioritized, and it is necessary to distribute the responsibilities by expanding the workforce or forming a specific team to improve the efficiency of probation officers dedicated to Electronic Monitoring. Kim, a junior of Dongguk University, said, “There are many problems that must be supplemented in the current Electronic Monitoring system. The government needs to prioritize large-scale supplementation of the workforce and budget expansion for probation officers. In addition, I think that it is necessary to consider a system in which criminals with a high risk of recidivism are accommodated in certain facilities for a certain period of time even after being released from prison.”
Additional measures announced by the Ministry of Justice after the Kang Yoon-sung case include immediate search and seizure of residences when the electronic anklet is damaged. Also, the arrest of offenders in case of violation of regulations such as restrictions on going out and the establishment of an expedited investigation team are planned. However, it has not been decided in detail when these will be implemented. Kim also added, “In order to make a safe Korea, it is necessary to identify the practical problems of the Electronic Monitoring system and improve them as soon as possible. I hope that the government plans in detail when to implement the additional measures and implements them quickly to ensure the safety of citizens.”
Eom Hye-rin firstname.lastname@example.org
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