[Viewpoint] Surveillance on illegal foreignersToday, foreigners make up approximately 3 percent of the total population in Korea. Among murder cases each year, about 9 percent are charged against foreigners. In violent crime such as murder, homicide and rape, foreigners have been more accountable than Koreans in the country. Moreover, criminal offenses by non-Korean citizens are increasing fast, outpacing the growth in the crime rate of Koreans.
Crimes committed by non-Koreans and Koreans are handled differently for several reasons. Crimes committed by foreigners must take into consideration the differences in culture, customs, habits and values. For instance, in communities with a large number of foreign residents, many criminal offenses involve knives and weapons.
Foreigners - usually from developing countries - are more accustomed to weapons and physical violence to settle disputes. They have brought and applied to Korea the habits and cultural behaviors of their societies.
In American society in the past, the murder rate was particularly high among Italian immigrants, and gambling prevalent among the ethnic Chinese population. Crime cases differ depending on the nationalities of the foreign population.
Another characteristic of foreign crime is that foreigners commit offenses mostly against other foreigners. They commit fraud such as illegal hiring and stealing or physical intimidation and violence against weaker foreign parties seeking work in Korea.
They even form criminal rings, run illegal gambling houses, beat or confine foreigners who cannot repay their gambling debts and even threaten their families back home.
If not contained, we will see more cases of foreigner crime like the recent rape and homicide committed against a woman in Suwon by an ethnic Korean man from China. Such criminal cases could create a bias against all ethnic Koreans from China.
We need to apply different solutions to foreign crimes because they are committed differently under unfamiliar motives. Society has been neglectful toward foreign crime because they mostly involve immigrants and illegal workers associated with racial discrimination and complacency. But the Suwon case underscores the need for aggressive action against crimes committed by foreigners.
First of all, we need more police in charge of foreign affairs in neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreigners. They should include officers who can easily connect and communicate with non-Koreans and help them better adapt and understand Korea.
Foreigner crimes can best be avoided if foreigners residing in the country are not treated as outsiders.
At the same time, law enforcement authorities should reinforce surveillance and crackdowns on illegal foreign residents and criminals. They must establish security systems and accurate data on foreign community members, particularly on foreigners who have criminal records. Environmental sources that can potentially promote crime should be removed.
Police should clamp down on the black market: underground banks, illegal job centers and counterfeit marriages. Various law enforcement authorities - foreign affairs police, customs and the National Intelligence Agency - should run a single network to share information and jointly fight crime. Such steps are necessary to lessen victims among locals as well as foreigners.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author is a professor of public administration at the Korea National Police University.
by Lee Yung-hyeock