[FOUNTAIIN]Capricious detentions

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[FOUNTAIIN]Capricious detentions

Case 1 - In November 2003 police booked pop star Michael Jackson on charges of child molestation. An hour and half later, he posted 3 million dollars for bail and was released. He was acquitted in June, 2005.
Case 2 - Korean prosecutors took a Yonsei University professor, Ma Kwang-soo, into custody for his provocative novel “Happy Sara” in October 1992. He was charged with the production and distribution of lascivious documents and later sentenced to eight months in prison suspended for two years.
If Mr. Jackson’s case happened in Korea, considering the nature of the alleged offense, his celebrity status and public opinion, he most certainly would have been taken into custody without the possibilty of bail. Then, Mr. Jackson would have been found guilty and ended up in jail. On the contrary, if Professor Ma’s case happened in the United States, it would have proceeded without detention because he was unlikely to destroy evidence or run away.
People who have been summoned by the investigative authorities know what detention means. One’s family is devastated, one can be fired from work and one cannot lead a normal life anymore. People are afraid of being taken into custody. That is why the accused promise handsome rewards and hire lawyers who used to be prosecutors or judges.
The original purpose of detention was to facilitate investigation. It began with the idea that interrogators can produce confessions from suspects by applying psychological pressure. But the Constitution defines all suspects as innocent until proven guilty and are to be interrogated and tried as free people. The Criminal Procedure Act determines the detention of a suspect based on the chance of destroying evidence and fleeing. These measures are meant to guarantee the rights of the accused and prevent undeserved jail time.
Recently, President Roh Moo-hyun pointed out the discrepancy between principles and reality in investigations without detention. He must have detected that the public is puzzled at the inconsistencies. Professor Kang Jung-koo and four brothers of the family-owned Doosan Group were indicted without detention while former National Intelligence Service chiefs were taken into custody.
Citizens do not want heinous criminals, sexual offenders and civil servants who appropriated tax money to walk free even if they are unlikely to flee or destroy evidence. What if you are hospitalized from a car accident and the offender, who was not detained, refuses to pay the bill? Would you still support investigations without detention. This is a dilemma. It is time we initiate a minimal set of standards.


by Ko Dae-hoon

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