Mentor program aims to keep kids on straight path

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Mentor program aims to keep kids on straight path

In an abandoned alley in Dongam-dong, Seongbuk District in northern Seoul, a 15-year-old high schooler surnamed Lee bullied a 13-year-old middle school boy surnamed Kang into giving him 3,000 won ($2.64) in April.

Lee, on the same day, same spot, threatened three other youngsters and collected 16,000 won from them.

Police caught on to Lee, but prosecutors eventually decided upon the conditional suspension of indictment on blackmail charges against Lee because of his age, that he has no prior offenses and that it was a minor crime.

One of the conditions of the suspension was for Lee to partner with a mentor and he was paired with Kim Dae-min, a 24-year-old economics major at Korea University.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office stated yesterday that about 150 young volunteers from college and graduate school and the corporate scene were appointed to a newly formed committee to serve as mentors for juvenile delinquents.

They will serve as mentors for half a year to young offenders who will participate in the program in lieu of detention.

The prosecutors’ office said it will drop the indictments of “juvenile delinquents who committed light crimes” on the condition they receive mentoring for six months. If the results are good, the prosecutors plan to expand the program.

Kim and Lee exchange SNS messages over KakaoTalk. They talk about various issues and daily life. Sometimes, they meet for meals. Lee stated that he “wants to see a concert,” so Kim invited him to an on-campus performance.

The mentoring group consists of 54 college students, 36 law trainees from the Judicial Research and Training Institute and 19 first year attorneys from the Samsung group along with young corporate workers and civic organization volunteers.

By Kim Ki-hwan[sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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