[Letter to the editor]Enforce all laws on crimes big and smallI’m a U.S.-born Korean who has been living here for the last three years and from my observations, Korea is a country where laws are rarely ever enforced. Every day I see several dozen laws being broken due to years of lack of enforcement. Many of these crimes are traffic-related and include excessive speeding, running red lights, driving in the bus lane and double parking, among others. What is the Korean National Police Agency doing? The police has handed over its job of enforcing the law to a bunch of speeding cameras that are too easy to circumvent.
Due to the problem of lack of enforcement the public has come to disrespect the police. In order to prevent serious crimes, minor laws must be enforced. This principle is based on the “broken windows theory” that was used to clean up New York City. The title of this theory comes from the following example: “Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash or breaking into cars.”
The reason so many laws are being broken daily is because no one respects the police; this is because no laws are being enforced. A couple of months ago I told a friend of mine to watch out about drinking and driving because there were several police checkpoints. His response demonstrates the seriousness of the current problem. “Who cares if there’s a checkpoint? What are they going to do if I run the checkpoint ― chase me down? The KNP can’t do anything. I’ve been through several checkpoints; they’re always on foot and they’ll never be able to chase me down.” Regardless of whether he was right or not, such reckless thinking derived from the lack of respect for the police. Another example of the lawlessness was during this past Lunar New Year [holiday] when someone I know travelled to Seoul. Just like every weekend when he goes to Seoul, he drives in the bus lane, since he knows all the speed-monitoring cameras from his location all the way to Seoul are disabled or are decoy cameras. However, the surprising part is that he passed three police patrol cruisers that did absolutely nothing. As I mentioned above, the police have given their jobs over to a bunch of cameras.
If a certain law cannot be enforced, [what it prohibits] should not be illegal. Just look at prostitution in Korea. It was banned by the National Assembly in 2004 and other than a minor crackdown right after the law was passed, there has been no progress in eliminating prostitution. The fact that this law is not being enforced makes the Korea National Police look impotent. I understand there’s a lot of politics involved in cracking down on such a big money producing industry but if that’s the case, why pass a law banning it? If the new law is not going to be enforced, [prostitution] might as well be legal.
The sad part of this situation is the lack of outrage from the public. When I asked my Korean girlfriend about this she didn’t think it was a big problem because the laws being broken were all petty. They may be petty crimes but I have seen firsthand how the lack of enforcement encourages people to commit even more serious crimes. People have to understand that they cannot get away with committing even petty crimes. This will prevent them from committing serious ones. If these simple laws are enforced, it could solve many of Korea’s problems including littering, corruption, prostitution and violent crime.
Bryan Rhee, Seoul