Hardship and random crimesOn Oct. 20, a man in his early 30s started a fire in his room at a lodging facility, then randomly attacked the other residents, who were trying to escape from the smoke and fire, with a knife.
The man, identified only by the surname Jeong, killed six people and left seven severely injured. He has been arrested for murder and arson.
Autopsies showed that the victims died from stabbing injuries rather than smoke inhalation. It was a brutal crime; one victim sustained over 20 stab wounds.
Jeong worked irregularly as a restaurant delivery man and a parking attendant. His was a typical case of urban poverty.
The victims had it difficult as well. They lived alone in the lodging unit, a facility often used by laborers, paying monthly rents of 170,000 won ($126).
The incident is making many people in similar circumstances worry about security, and in some cases, question their lives.
Jeong said he committed the crime because the world looked down on him. This strikes fear in the hearts of many people about the reality of random crime.
Jeong reportedly prepared for the crime for months, buying such items as a gas gun, a sharp knife, goggles to see better through smoke, a head lamp, a ski cap and a gun lighter. It was like a sequence from a crime movie.
The incident is similar to the shooting massacre by Seung-hui Cho at Virginia Tech, that horrified the entire world.
Such random murders are on the rise. Criminals kill people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time just to release their rage. These acts are not perpetrated for robbery, revenge or as crimes of passion - there is no specific motivation.
This year, a passerby and a civil servant were stabbed to death in Korea with no apparent reason. In June last year, in central Tokyo in Japan, a man in his 20s drove a truck into pedestrians and then stabbed them, killing seven people. Innocent people who have nothing to do with criminals are the victims of such crimes.
As financial burdens begin to weigh, socially isolated people who feel underprivileged can be tempted to commit such crimes.
Senior citizens, children, women and disabled people are said to be more likely to fall victim. But anyone who loses a beloved family member or friend is a victim.
We need to establish official measures to support people who feel isolated. But we can begin today by treating them more warmly.