A social contract

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A social contract

After forensic filing and joint studies with behavioral psychologists, the police concluded that the murder of a 23-year-old woman in a public toilet near Gangnam Station in southern Seoul was the act of a schizophrenic and not a woman-hater.

The incident sparked fear about misogyny sprouting in society. Regardless of what really motivated the slaying, mentally-ill people roaming the streets unattended and unsupervised should raise social concerns.

The 34-year-old suspect had shown symptoms of paranoia from 2003 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2008. He was hospitalized numerous times and treated for 19 months. He had been off medication for four months and living on the streets before stabbing a woman who walked into a public toilet around 1:00 a.m.

The case shows how lax authorities are in tending to mentally-ill individuals and protecting the rest of the society from potential dangers.

The state and society have a duty to care for these people and to help them settle back into society. Statistics show that people who receive proper treatment present far less of a threat to society.

To prevent such casualties from happening, authorities must better aid programs for people with mental illnesses and keep a close watch on them to ensure that they are fully capable of returning to a normal life.

Supervision must be toughened for those belonging to highly-dangerous categories of mental illness. Authorities also must make sure people keep taking their prescriptions.

But mental illness is like any illness. Those suffering must not be stigmatized as dangerous people. But the illness, like any other, can nevertheless worsen and be potentially life-threatening for the patient and for others. Understanding, care and protection for and by the community can help make a safe society for all.

The public infrastructure must be upgraded to ensure public safety. Men and women’s toilets must be strictly separated and safety precautions must be taken with regard to dark alleys and public places. The state has to make life safe for the public.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 23, Page 30
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