[FOUNTAIN]Stockholm syndrome taken too far?

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[FOUNTAIN]Stockholm syndrome taken too far?

On the morning of Oct. 16, 1988, hostage takers confronted the police in a quiet residential neighborhood in Bukgajwa-dong, Seoul. Ji Gang-heon, a convicted robber, had escaped with other inmates nine days earlier, and after a chase that continued all over the capital, the runaways broke into a house, took the family hostage and held out against the police.
They asked the police to play “Holiday” by the Bee Gees, and cried, “Money can buy prosecutors and judges in this dirty world.” They were all captured or killed by the police in the end. But the public felt sympathy toward Mr. Ji and other runaways, largely because the poor were more likely to receive harsher punishment for the same crime. People began to say, “The haves are innocent, the have-nots are guilty.”
Some of the most vicious felons win sympathy from the public despite their crimes. The Stockholm syndrome refers to the psychological reaction of hostages who begin to identify with their captor. In contrast, some hostage takers become assimilated with their hostages, a phenomenon termed the Lima Syndrome after anti-government activists who developed close ties to their hostages in Lima, Peru in 1997.
Sometimes, a criminal’s genius will fascinate the public. Vidocq is a legendary French criminal from the 18th century. Committing robbery, theft, forgery and many other crimes, Vidocq was a master of disguise and escaped from prison more than 50 times. His story was even made into a novel.
Nicknamed the “Bandit Queen,” Phoolan Devi is a criminal-turned-women’s rights activist. Born in the lowest caste in India in 1958, Ms. Devi was raped by more than 20 men of higher caste when she was young. Becoming a bandit as an adult, Ms. Devi tracked down the rapists and murdered them. Her revenge made her revered as a symbol of the women’s movement.
Recently, a young suspected robber in her 20s has become an instant Internet darling. Nicknamed “Pretty Face,” the alleged criminal became famous when her photo was distributed nationwide on the police wanted list. Her “fans” seem to care more about her face than her crime. The Stockholm syndrome surrounding Mr. Ji, Vidocq, and Ms. Devi was certainly abnormal, but the popularity of “Pretty Face” leaves a bitter aftertaste.


by Lee Kyu-youn

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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