Police revive stop and search to help fight violent crimes

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Sept 2, 2012 - 20:29
  • Updated : Sept 2, 2012 - 20:29
The police have revived the practice of stopping and questioning suspicious individuals in the wake of a recent series of high-profile violent crimes.

On Sunday, the National Police Agency sent out directives to police stations and district police agencies across the country to employ the method as part of efforts to prevent violent crimes such as acts of indiscriminate violence and sexual assault against minors.

The method allows police officers to stop and question suspicious individuals when it is deemed that there is considerable reason to suspect that the individual has or is about to commit a crime. 
Police officers stop and question a person on a Seoul street on Sunday. (Yonhap News)

Police officers are also allowed to request questioned individuals to accompany them to a police facility.

Following the directive, the police plan to employ the method mainly in areas with large crowds of people such as subway stations, and in high-crime areas.

The police also plan to investigate individuals found with potential weapons and other dangerous materials at police substations. Under the Act on the Performance of Duties by Police Officers, officers are able to question suspicious individuals who have not been arrested for up to six hours.

The method fell into disuse after the National Human Rights Commission advised that the chiefs of a police station and a substation in Incheon be given a warning over a case involving the use of the method in September 2010.

Following the ruling and campaigns from human rights groups, the police agency has been limiting the use of the method to major cases.

The decision to bring back the practice despite being criticized for potential human rights violations follows a series of violent crimes, the most recent of which involved the rape of a 7-year-old girl in Naju, South Jeolla Province.

The suspect, a 23-year-old man identified by the surname Go, kidnapped the victim from her home in the early hours of Aug. 30. The suspect then raped the victim, dealing severe injuries to her body, and left her under a bridge only 300 meters away from her home.

Go, who is also charged with robbing a store near the scene of the rape, was arrested the following day in the nearby city of Suncheon, and is now under detention following the Gwangju District Court’s approval of the warrant request judging that there was a risk of flight.

As he entered the court for the warrant review, Go told reporters that he was sorry to the family of the victim and that he wanted to die.

The case followed on the heels of four violent incidents that began on Aug. 18 in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, when a man identified by the surname Yoo injured eight passengers at a metro station with a knife.

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 man.

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 incidents were followed by another multiple stabbing case in which 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.

By Choi He-suk (