[KS] Serious Korean Youth Crime
Frank M. Tedesco
tedesco at uriel.net
Sat Jul 11 13:39:58 EDT 1998
> Love Sole Weapon to End Youth Crime
> By Jang Jae-il
> Staff Reporter
> ``I stabbed a man to steal his money to pay for my habits
> such as drinking, dating and dancing. Now, I regret my
> actions and suffer from nightmares every night,'' said a
> 22-year-old high school dropout, who declined to be mentioned
> by name, now serving his time at the Juvenile Training
> School, an all-boy reformatory, in Anyang, Kyonggi-do.
> Youth delinquency is no longer a quiet and sheltered social
> problem in Korea. It has grown drastically over the past few
> years. Korea has eleven all-boy reformatories nationwide and
> a single all-girl reformatory, also in Anyang, Kyonggi-do.
> The problem is no longer simply another person's headache.
> According to Kang Ji-won, Chairman of the Commission on Youth
> Protection under the office of the Prime Minister, who is
> also a working public prosecutor about 20,000 youths run away
> from home every year in Korea.
> He said that parents are responsible for 70 to 80 percent of
> the cases according to studies conducted by the commission.
> They run away from home due to many reasons such as bad
> grades at school, gender discrimination, drunken violence and
> even marital disharmony between their parents. ``If children
> are embraced with love by their parents, then they will not
> run away no matter how serious their problems are,'' Kang
> One key reason exacerbating the delinquency rate is the
> shrinking of the core family and the rising rate of divorce.
> Such single parents or couples cannot adequately nurture and
> guide their children as they themselves are too busy working
> to put the food on the table.
> ``Young parents do not understand what examples they must set
> before their children. They must help their children to
> discover life philosophies and instill in them visions for
> the future,'' Kang said.
> Another crucial reason is the rote-memory oriented education
> in Korean schools, where character development is more often
> than not neglected. The students are geared to scoring high
> on exams and virtues leading to proper lifestyles are absent
> from the education.
> ``A family must teach family values. A school should provide
> character education. A community must form a nucleus. But
> there is a vacuum in a community, and there is no adult to
> reprimand children when they fight, as young parents are too
> busy making a living to survive,'' Kang said.
> Such everyday factors make children more quick tempered and
> short on patience, discretion and self-control. The result is
> the formation of youth who are mentally fragile and prone to
> giving up easily on themselves and on given tasks.
> A case in point is that of a 18-year-old student also at the
> Juvenile Training School, declining to be mentioned by name,
> who said, ``I was involved in a gang fight in my hometown,
> and all I now wish is to return to school and continue my
> education as I have seriously regretted my wrong actions.''
> The police must also ferret out crimes more precisely.
> ``Looking at the trend over the past 10 years, youth violence
> is increasing in the forms of hard core crimes such as
> robbery, rape and murder and we expect the problem to become
> as serious as in Japan or the United States,'' explained
> Female youth delinquency is also rising in forms of sexual
> deviancy such as dating older men for money following chance
> encounters on the streets. Traditionally, Korean women were
> not given school education in the past. Now, that is no
> longer true as males and females attend school together.``The
> barrier between male and female students have become
> obsolete, and their interaction has become more commonplace,
> as they have almost equal lifestyles,'' said Kang.
> The diversification and sophistication of pleasure businesses
> have fueled the growing sexual deviancy such as through
> telephone dating services. Although, Korea does not have a
> problem of teenage females working as prostitutes at adult
> establishments such as in Japan, the trend is expected to
> take root in Korea as well, according to the commission.
> Hence, the government must clean up the environments seducing
> youth to deviate and close down shops using them as tools to
> make a profit. Lewd videos, violent cartoons, liquors,
> cigarettes and drugs must be cleaned out from the reach of
> the children. Kang urged, ``The individual families, schools
> and communities must form a networking system to combat
> teenage delinquency.''
> The biggest problem is the failure of the public to report
> transgressions to the legal establishment. ``Citizens must
> report bad influences, but they desist from doing so because
> of cultural bias that such actions are harmful to others,
> despite the wrongful actions committed, and silence is
> adopted in most cases,'' Kang lamented. He also said,
> ``Bureaucrats working in the censorship areas are very
> corrupt and accept bribes for not taking any action.'
> In general, Kang said that Koreans are poor keepers of the
> laws. ``If we compare to advanced nations like the United
> States, then Korea is very legally unregulated. People break
> traffic rules, break into queues and sell cigarettes and
> liquors to minors. Every day rules are broken simply because
> they are not reported. people ignore them and only one out of
> ten offenders are caught,'' Kang said.
> Most juvenile offenses are committed in Seoul and its
> satellite cities, where nearly half of the Korean population
> lives. The urbanization has alienated people to the point
> where neighbors living in apartments do not even know the
> names of one another. Along with such patterns of dense
> population concentration, the advances in audio-visual
> technology has also had adverse effects on the youth despite
> their potential benefits.
> Teenagers nowadays learn much more from television, video and
> PC multimedia than they do at school. ``They soak up massive
> amounts of information like sponges and some of that
> knowledge is very useful. But, to a greater degree they
> contain harmful information. The polluted media makes
> teenagers more violent and sexually wanton,'' Kang said.
> He pointed out that teenage delinquency before the
> commercialization of television half a century ago and today
> is vastly different. ``Juvenile crimes have become rougher
> and crueler. Suicides, which are attacks against oneself,
> have also spread even to elementary school students,'' he
> But, he noted that the adolescent wanderings have dropped in
> target age group from high schoolers to junior high schoolers
> to even as young as fifth or sixth grade elementary school
> students. Students are now feeling adolescent crisis earlier,
> such as rebelling against authority or having an identity
> Youth crimes are also becoming group oriented as four or five
> children often band together to commit a crime. The influence
> has even infiltrated female students. In the past, most
> crimes were committed by male teenagers. Now, female students
> are showing similar trends. There are female crime groups
> which are more crueler and frightening than those consisting
> of males.
> ``As teenagers are tomorrow's investments and working
> citizens, Koreans must take up a new perspective in dealing
> with teeange delinquency. People must take up roles of
> leaders and step forward to teach them,'' Kang said.
> One negative habit often practiced by adults is the labeling
> of delinquent youth. Teenagers have a possibility for change
> as they have more life left ahead of them than what they left
> behind. The general public has to take an understanding
> position that their mistakes were not deliberate, but onetime
> and forgive them. Such confidence in them is required to lead
> and educate youth who have strayed, instead of punishing
> Kang said, ``We must never beat them. The common perception
> of the `beating of love' or physical beating is wrong,
> despite the strong tendency on the part of adults to justify
> and rationalize their actions.'' Rather, he recommended
> giving youth a choice of positive punishments, after giving
> them time to realize their mistakes, such as cleaning toilets
> or sweeping the yard.
> Such punishments can motivate the youth to feel grateful for
> the reprimand as they already realize their mistakes and
> understand they have to atone for them. All delinquent
> children have wounds in their hearts and we adults must help
> to heal them. He confessed, ``I used to be a scary dad to my
> two young daughters. I once hit one of my daughters before I
> realized that it was wrong. I apologized to my daughter for
> hitting her, and now I never yell or hit or forcefully order
> my daughters to do something.''
> Kang concluded, ``Change is an inherent potential in
> teenagers, so instead of punishing them we must persuade,
> educate and approach them with love.''
> (C) COPYRIGHT 1998 THE HANKOOKILBO
Frank Tedesco, Ph.D.
Occasional lecturer, University of Maryland
98 Kunjadong, Kwangjin-gu
Seoul 143-747 KOREA
E-mail: tedesco at uriel.net
"Life is a terminal disease, and it's sexually transmitted."
John Cleese, the Buddhist.
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