[EDITORIALS]Crime’s worsening pathology

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[EDITORIALS]Crime’s worsening pathology

A suspect was apprehended Sunday in the recent series of brutal murders in Seoul. So far, there are 19 known victims, most of them either wealthy senior citizens or “visiting masseuses.” The murders were particularly gruesome; the bodies were cut into pieces before being burned or buried. The killings are all the more shocking in that they were indiscriminate; the victims apparently had no personal histories with the suspect.
These murders are clear evidence of the worsening pathology of crime in our society. The suspect, Yoo Yeong-cheol, 33, was born to a poor family and has served 11 years in prison for various crimes. The suspect claimed that his divorce, and his rejection by another woman, caused him to harbor intense hatred for society, and women in particular. He said he killed rich people and women because he blamed these two particular groups for his misfortunes. The suspect’s unfortunate past is, of course, no excuse. But we cannot deny that the selfishness, indifference to the impoverished and flippant disregard for human lives manifest in our society provided the soil for the seeds of such horrific crimes to grow.
This incident also shows that major improvements are needed in police investigation. The suspect allegedly killed not because of personal grudges, or to steal, but because of hostility towards a vaguely defined majority. The present system, relying on widespread questioning and examination of the victim’s surroundings, is inadequate to such crimes. The police must reinforce their on-site forensic abilities. The suspect in this case was apparently cautious enough to remove the fingerprints of his victims and set fire to the bodies to impede DNA testing of any of his own blood. The fact that he was caught largely because of a phone call points to the importance of citizens’ participation. During the process of apprehension, the suspect managed to escape before being caught again within 12 hours. Details of the crimes were revealed mostly through his confessions, showing a fundamental limit to the police’s investigative powers.
The best way to prevent such crimes from happening again is to make this society healthy again. More attention should be paid to the needs of the impoverished. Society needs to work together to ensure that the distorted thought that all rich people are crooks never again leads to such brutal crimes.
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