Fixing juvenile law
A 13-year-old killed his aunt who was in her 50s after she nagged and scolded him for playing too many computer games. He also attempted to kill his younger brother, who witnessed the crime. But the police could not arrest him because he falls under the local juvenile law that prevents minors of between 10 and 14 from facing criminal charges, even for serious crimes.
Instead, the police got a court order to send him to a juvenile detention center. If the police had not taken immediate action, the boy would have returned home and been free to possibly commit another offense.
Juvenile crimes committed by youths between the ages of 10 and 14 is high, reaching 9,500 in 2011, 14,000 in 2012, and 9,928 last year. Children are capable of committing adult crimes like murder and rape and are prone to committing more crimes as they grow up.
According to the Korea Institute of Criminology, 67 percent of boys who are troubled in their youth also commit crimes as adults. A bill is pending in the National Assembly to lower the age for which a child can’t be tried for a crime to 12.
But lowering the age isn’t the right solution. A juvenile can learn how to commit crimes and take up dangerous habits if he or she is kept in adult prison. Most countries set the juvenile delinquent age at our level or higher. The maximum age is 14 in Japan, Germany, and Austria. It is 15 in Italy and Sweden.
The Constitutional Court ruled in 2003 that the juvenile delinquent age in Korea is reasonable compare with other countries.
But sending a dangerous minor to a detention center is also not appropriate. Many are released without being completely reformed. Psychological treatment and re-education must be part of detention. One effective means would be to allow juvenile delinquents a chance to repent and change in their normal family surroundings.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 17, Page 34