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[Editorial] Lax probation

Ex-con fitted with ankle bracelet murders two women, turns self in

A case of murder in which an ex-convict fitted with an ankle monitor killed two women has jolted the nation.

A 56-year-old man surnamed Kang killed one woman while wearing an ankle bracelet, cut off the device on a street in Songpa-gu, Seoul, and ran away on Friday, murdering another woman before surrendering to police Sunday.
The women are said to be his acquaintances. Police found their bodies where he indicated -- one in his house and the other in the trunk of a rented car that he drove to the police station when he surrendered. His bold crimes are horrifying, and the public is dumbfounded that police were in the dark about the murders before he surrendered. If he had not turned himself in, more tragedies might have happened.

What’s more frustrating is that the police searched the area around his house and inquired with neighbors several times on the day he ran away after being notified by the Justice Ministry of his flight, but they did not search the house since they did not have a warrant. The body of the first victim, murdered a day earlier, had been dumped at the house.

According to police, Kang has been imprisoned several times for 14 previous convictions, mostly for robbery and sex crimes. In October 1996, he was sentenced to five years in jail for sexually assaulting a woman and taking her money and goods. In September 2005, he was sentenced to 15 years for taking money from a woman in her 20s and sexually molesting her at knifepoint, just five months after he was released from prison.

When he was paroled on May 6 this year, he was required to wear an ankle bracelet for five years. But the ankle tag was no obstacle. He committed the horrible crimes just about three months after being released from prison. This invites questions such as, “What’s the use of ankle monitors?”

The country introduced ankle bracelets in 2008, but it is questionable if they have accomplished the goal of preventing recidivism. Over the past five years, 303 ex-offenders committed repeat sex crimes while wearing ankle bracelets, according to the Ministry of Justice. More than half of them, 166 ex-offenders, committed the crimes within a 1-kilometer radius of their dwellings.

Ankle bracelets exist for crime prevention, but if they are tampered with or removed frequently, they are useless. Tight management and surveillance are needed.

The ministry on Monday announced measures to prevent recidivism for ex-offenders wearing ankle bracelets. The main steps are to use more robust materials in the monitoring devices and to strengthen cooperation with police to apprehend fugitives quickly if they cut off ankle monitors and flee. It also plans to expand the number of personnel in charge of probation and parole.

Probably the most pressing issue is to increase the number of officers to tightly supervise those prone to repeat offenses. As of July, there were 300 probation and parole officers -- 19 in charge of monitoring ex-offenders one-to-one and 281 officers each watching 17.3 people on average. This is not enough.

The measures unveiled Monday may sound like trying to lock the stable door after the horse is stolen, but this time they must be carried out without fail to prevent a recurrence of such terrible crimes.

Above all, police and probation officers who rush to the scene of a crime must make greater efforts with a strong sense of mission to apprehend fugitives quickly.
Many women are overcome with anxiety over Kang’s murders. His second victim, killed after he removed his bracelet, might have been saved if officers had responded quickly and thoroughly. Ankle bracelets are good for nothing if they are not properly managed and can raise the risk of crimes. In addition, punishment needs to be strengthened greatly for tampering with or removing the devices.

By Korea Herald (
Korea Herald daum