The Incheon District Court handed down the heaviest possible punishment for each underage offender under the local juvenile law, saying the murder was “brutal” and “carefully planned.”
The killer, surnamed Kim, was sentenced to 20 years in jail for abducting and killing the child and dismembering and dumping the body. Her accomplice, surnamed Park, who had no direct part in the murder itself, was sentenced to life for acting as an accomplice. The court ordered them to each wear a location-tracking device for 30 years.
The prosecution also requested the 20-year prison term for Kim and a life sentence for Park. In a rare move, the court fully accepted it without lowering the sentence.
Under the law, murdering a person younger than 13 can lead to the death penalty or life imprisonment. But both Kim and Park are entitled to protections as minors under the juvenile law, as they are under 19 years old.
The juvenile law stipulates that those aged under 18 can avoid a death penalty or life imprisonment. Kim, who is 17 years old, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, the maximum possible punishment. But her accomplice Park, 18, was not entitled to such a protection and was handed down a life sentence.
According to the prosecution, Kim lured the girl to her place from a nearby park, telling her that she would let her use her phone as the girl was seeking to call her mother. Kim strangled the victim to death in her home, chopped the body into pieces and disposed of the body on her apartment’s rooftop in Incheon, west of Seoul, in late March.
The court dismissed Kim’s claims that she had been in a “feeble-minded state” at the time of the crime.
Kim’s defense team admitted to the charges, but asked for leniency, saying Kim suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism, and multiple personality disorder. They said it was an “impulsive crime” without motive.
The court acknowledged that Park was closely involved in the process.
Before Kim murdered the victim, she sent a text message to Park, saying, “I am going out hunting.” After killing the victim, Kim told Park that she might have killed a girl. Park then texted Kim, saying, “Give me a piece of the corpse as a gift.” Kim gave Park part of the dismembered body in a paper bag, according to the prosecution.
Kim, a high school dropout, initially claimed that she had acted alone. She later changed her statement and said Park, whom she met on social media, was the mastermind behind the murder and she only followed Park’s orders. The prosecution added murder to Park’s charges based on Kim’s testimony.
Park has admitted to involvement in abandoning the body, but not to the murder.
The case shocked the public for its cruelty and the young offenders’ apparent aloofness about the crimes they committed. It also triggered debate over whether sentencing guidelines giving leniency to underage offenders and those suffering from mental illness should be revised.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)