Calling the crime a felony committed against the whole of society, the Seoul Central District Court also ordered the 34-year-old, identified by his surname Kim, to wear an electronic anklet and receive medical treatment in custody for 20 years.
Kim was arrested in May on charges of murdering a 22-year-old woman with a kitchen knife at a public bathroom near Gangnam Station on May 17.
“His crime was cruel and random, taking away the life of a person he did not even know. It was a serious contempt of life,” the court said in the ruling. “The defendant is also not showing any remorse at all for the victim and her family.”
The prosecution had demanded a life sentence for Kim.
But his symptoms of schizophrenia and persecution complex should be taken into account, the court said.
“The crime seems to have been planned in advance,” the court said. “But, given that the defendant did not hide the knife used to murder the victim and went to work with it with bloodstain on his clothes the next morning, it is difficult to deny that Kim committed the murder under feeble-minded conditions.”
Kim had been hospitalized for schizophrenia six times since 2009. But he had not taken medication since he was discharged from hospital in January. His doctor testified during earlier hearings that Kim could have been gripped by a persecution complex when he committed the murder.
The court dismissed the misogynous nature of the crime.
“It seems that Kim’s crime against women resulted from his fears toward men in general and women’s more socially marginalized status, rather than his hatred toward women,” the court said.
Kim allegedly waited for about 50 minutes, during which six men came and went, and killed the first woman who entered, according to CCTV footage.
Kim, who had no prior contact with the victim, said during earlier hearings he had decided to commit the crime upon anger toward women who he said constantly ignored him.
“I just wanted to solve a problem because women have done harm to me, but it was not a crime driven by hatred against women,” he said. “I have seriously thought about it and was under stable conditions when I committed the crime.”
Kim looked pale and nervous in the light green prison uniform as he walked into the courtroom with nearly 60 spectators and reporters in attendance Friday. The victim’s mother was seen weeping at the back of the courtroom as the judge read out the ruling.
While the prosecution defined the crime as an offense by a mentally ill person, not a hate crime, the murder of the young woman had earlier prompted nationwide mourning as well as debate over misogyny and safety for women in the country.
Kim can file an appeal within seven days with the Seoul High Court.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)