The crime rate has continued to rise in Korea, as too much emphasis on human rights naturally lowers the arrest rate. The types of crimes have become more diverse as well.
There are no rampages with firearms as there are in the U.S., but horrible crimes that do not involve guns are reported almost every day by the press.
It is unsettling to watch news reports on shameless crimes such as selling food containing carcinogens, swindling old people out of their hard-earned money, raping and robbing women in back alleys, and so on.
The problem is that punishments for these crimes are too soft. One good example ― Huh Jae-ho, the former chairman of Daeju Group, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison with four years of probation and a fine of 25.4 billion won in January 2010 for tax evasion and embezzlement.
In lieu of the payment of the fine, Huh was ordered to do prison labor for 50 days, which makes his labor amount to 500 million won per day. He chose to return to Korea last month to serve his prison term, rather than paying the fine.
He was placed in the Gwangju Correctional Institution.
Even though he does not work in prison on Saturdays and Sundays, his fine was reduced by 1 billion won. The Korean Bar Association criticized this special treatment in a statement titled “An emperor’s labor, 500 million won a day: we deplore the handling of former chairman of Daeju Huh Jae-ho’s case.
“For ordinary people, prison labor reduces their fines by 50,000 to 100,000 won per day,” it said, “but the reduction rate for Huh was 10,000 times higher than that. This severe disparity violates the principle of equality in the Constitution.”
In the U.S., the Republican Party (conservative) and the Democratic Party (liberal) hold different positions on crime. For example, the Democratic Party emphasizes the prevention of crimes as a measure to reduce crimes, while the Republican Party emphasizes the punishment of crimes.
Democrats believe that the gap between the rich and the poor has to be narrowed to create a crime-free society.
Children from poor environments are more likely to give in to temptations around them, since they do not receive proper education due to a polarized educational system, and do not have money to be inherited from their poor parents. This makes them more likely to give in easily to the allure of crime and become someone who is in and out of jail throughout his life.
Hence, liberals claim, since it is the responsibility of the government to rehabilitate and send inmates back as good members of society, it is not productive to send people to jail after they commit crimes.
The government should focus on studying the fundamental causes of crimes and preventing crimes. They believe that a society where people can buy $20 guns made in China easily in back alleys contributes a lot to the crimes, and that the government should bear responsibility for failing to get rid of violent movies where people are killed for nothing and try to make a responsible society. Thus they want a stronger, bigger government.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party believes that it is irresponsible to blame society for crimes, and that a society of justice and order can be maintained by making one pay for the crime that one commits.
For this reason, Republicans criticize the policy of the Democratic Party, which pours a tremendous amount of the governmental budget into thousands of crime prevention programs in the U.S. They claim that the government should adopt tough policies against crimes.
From the perspective of the Republican Party, which emphasizes the rights of victims, the sorrow of a victim’s family is in fact never revealed to people after all, as the press does not show interest in the grief of a victim’s family, only moving on to the next, more violent crime.
Conservatives give as much priority to the rights of a victim’s family that is broken into pieces by a crime as they do to the rights of a victim.
Thus, they claim that the government should make the perpetrators pay back to the victims’ families through prison labor and set the probation periods accordingly so that the families can be repaid directly.
It appears that the punishment against a crime in our country is set by a judge arbitrarily without any principle. I think that it would be desirable that the verdict should be made by a jury and sentencing should follow the federal guidelines as they do in the U.S.
Weak punishment only produces adverse effects encouraging more and more crimes. Especially, it is hard to understand how there is such a big difference in punishment between haves and have-nots, while everyone should be equal in the eyes of the law.
Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the Kim Chang Joon U.S.-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website at http://www.jayckim.com.