Prosecute the criminals

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Prosecute the criminals

The number of people who commit crimes in Korea and then flee to other countries is in the hundreds each year. According to the Ministry of Justice, the total number of criminals fleeing Korea was 2,415 for five and a half years from 2005 to June 2010. Most of them were identified as swindlers, followed by criminals caught for embezzlement, breach of trust and robbery.

Among them, however, only 2 percent, 52 offenders, were extradited to Korea. The low extradition rate resulted primarily from a misguided belief among criminals that they can avoid punishment if only they escape the country.

The recent hacking incident at Hyundai Capital, too, may remain an unsolved mystery for quite a long time. The prime suspect, a man named Shin, 37, is reportedly staying in the Philippines after coming under suspicion for hacking another financial company in May 2007. He went on to commit four more cybercrimes, including hacking the Korean portal site Daum from the Philippines. Although his name was put on Interpol’s most wanted list after he escaped Korea, he leisurely committed crime after crime without being arrested. That means we can hardly expect him to be extradited if our law enforcement authorities only seek to catch him through cooperation by the local police.

Starting with Australia in 1990, our government has signed criminal extradition treaties with several major countries, including the United States, Canada, China, Japan and the Philippines. Most of the crimes the pact covers are the those resulting in imprisonment for more than a year or more severe forms of punishment.

The problem, however, is that such formal treaties are actually ineffective and impractical. It takes several years for a criminal to be extradited because of a complicated process that involves the ministries of foreign affairs and justice, the courts and the prosecution in the country in which the criminal is living.

With the latest case, we need to thoroughly examine whether our government has established efficient systems for cooperation with other countries on this front. Aside from international extradition treaties, the administration should also devise ways to work with Interpol in addition to making a strong request for extradition of the criminals while placing administrative restrictions on their passports.

This time the government must set an example that clearly demonstrates that domestic criminals are destined to be extradited no matter where or who they are.
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