BUSAN, Sept. 6 (Korea Bizwire) – A bullying case involving a group of female middle school students brutalizing a fellow student in Busan has turned into a national issue as the outpouring of public rage has prompted many to question police competence and juvenile criminal law.
On September 1, a group of four girls gave their victim in an alley that lasted one hour and forty minutes. Starting at 9 p.m., the girls made use of an assortment of glass bottles, chairs and materials from the nearby factory, unaware that a CCTV camera was recording the whole scene.
The case began to be called the “Bloodied Middle School Student” in the media after it was reported that the victim had been discovered in a bloodied state by a passing pedestrian.
The Busan Police Agency announced on September 5 that it had requested bench warrants for two of the perpetrators on charges of causing bodily harm and causing bodily harm motivated by revenge.
The latter charge is considered a violation of “additional punishment” statutes in criminal law and thus carries a heavier penalty than the former charge.
The police investigation has been mired in controversy as the victim’s parents accused law enforcement of being “lazy in responding to the situation until the media began reporting the story, which is when their investigation was thoroughly carried out”.
After the police had wrapped up their investigation, the victim’s parents disclosed through media channels that the recent assault was the second time their daughter was physically abused by at least two of the same perpetrators.
The recent assault was attributed to revenge, meant to punish the victim for reporting the perpetrators to the police after the first assault in June.
The public were enraged when the fact that the police were aware of the June incident coupled with the knowledge that they had at the time judged the victim to have suffered only minor injuries was brought to light.
In the aftermath of both the June and September incidents, the victim was hospitalized and treated at the same facility. Her most recent injuries included lacerations on the back of her head and inside her mouth which caused severe bleeding.
Furthermore, additional revelations that the two principal 14-year-old suspects, given the pseudonyms Student A and Student B, were currently under juvenile probation, and the police had only realized this four days into their investigation triggered another deluge of public scorn.
Students A and B were discovered to be staying in a juvenile delinquency center. They had been placed on juvenile probation on charges of theft and battery not long before the June incident occurred.
The police defended the delay by claiming that accessing juvenile parole information was impeded by the fact that matters pertaining to juvenile criminal laws are regulated by the Ministry of Justice.
The other two girls involved in the incident, dubbed Student C and Student D, were booked without detention.
According to the police, “C” assaulted the victim with a plastic bottle and “D” slapped the victim in the face.
Student D, who is 13 years old and is considered a legal minor (the age of criminal responsibility is 14), will be referred to the juvenile court system and placed under juvenile probation.
This has not sat well with a vocal portion of Korean society who see her punishment as being too lenient and have issued demands for change to the existing legal framework governing juveniles.
In response. the National Assembly’s Public Administration and Security Committee Chair Yoo Jae Joong addressed the concerns by stating that the National Assembly would consider the possibility of raising the age of responsibility and abolishing the juvenile justice system.
He cited the “increased rapidity in the maturation of youth and their ability to commit crimes, an ability indistinguishable from an adult’s” as a reason for possible changes to existing legislation.
Minors between the ages of 10 and 14 are protected from punishment determined by adult criminal law. Instead, they are placed on juvenile probation and given social welfare work.