Stabbings raise alarm about social outcasts

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Aug 23, 2012 - 20:54
  • Updated : Aug 23, 2012 - 20:54

Kim Ki-yong (second from left), commissioner general of the National Police Agency, inspects on Thursday the crime scene in Yeouido, where a man stabbed four people on the previous day. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
An unemployed man carried out a stabbing spree on Wednesday in Seoul, marking the fourth knife attack to take place in Korea in less than a week.

While public anxiety grows, experts say that dissent against society, a sense of being deprived and isolation from society are to blame.

According to experts, social outcasts have a tendency toward explosive expressions of emotion when their pride is hurt, and their anger and anxiety can result in such attacks.

The latest attack took place in the financial district Yeouido, when a 30-year old unemployed man stabbed two of his former coworkers and then proceeded to stab two passersby at random as he was being chased by onlookers who intervened.

The attacker, identified by the surname Kim, attacked the former coworkers as revenge for him being dismissed by the company two years ago.

During police questioning, Kim said that he considered suicide but felt that it was “unfair” for him to die alone and chose to attack the two former coworkers, who according to Kim had mistreated him in the workplace.

“In general people who are alienated from society and those whose social status has fallen rapidly can resort to such acts in order to make their voice heard,” said Park Soon-jin, a Daegu University professor who specializes in criminal psychology and criminology.

“These individuals may share a sense of depression, but psychological analysis of those who commit acts of indiscriminate violence rarely shows signs of mental illness.”

Park added that the highly competitive nature of the Korean society is a contributing factor.

“They are cut off from society and they are not part of a community, and (in a highly competitive society) social concern is not given.”

As with the attack in Yeouido, the three earlier attacks were committed by individuals who are unemployed or working on an irregular basis.

The recent spree of violent crimes started on Aug. 18 in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province when a man identified by the surname Yoo injured eight passengers at a metro station.

Yoo, who works as a day laborer, was on his way to look for work. Yoo told the police that he lashed out with a blade when a young man confronted him about spitting on his hand.

Three days later in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, a 39-year old man identified as Kang stabbed a patron and the owner of a bar, then entered a nearby house where he attacked a family of three. The second attack resulted in the death of a 65-year old named Koh.

Kang said that the first attack, during which he attempted to sexually assault the bar’s owner, was motivated by an argument over change of 20,000 won ($18) that took place at a different establishment near the scene of the attack.

A day after the Suwon incident, a 27-year old man was arrested in Ulsan on charges of attempted murder after he stabbed a shopkeeper without any apparent motive.

The man, who was arrested on site, is said to have spent the past three years at home without significant contact with the outside world.

By Choi He-suk  (