[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         
>               07/02
>               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
>               emphasized.
>               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
>               Kang.
>               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
>               said.
>               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
>               crisis.
>               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
>               them.
>               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
Assistant Professor
Sejong University
98 Kunjadong, Kwangjin-gu
Seoul 143-747 KOREA
Tel/fax: 82-2-997-3954
E-mail: tedesco at uriel.net

"Life is a terminal disease, and it's sexually transmitted."
John Cleese, the Buddhist.


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