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[Editorial] Strengthen public security

Another brutal assault sounds alarm amid rising safety concerns

By Korea Herald

Published : Aug. 22, 2023 - 05:30

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Another brutal crime was committed in broad daylight in Seoul last week, resulting in the death of an innocent victim. With a mix of grief and outrage gripping the nation, people are increasingly concerned about the compromised public safety.

According to police, the suspect, only identified by his family name Choi, attacked a woman with brass knuckles before raping her in a remote area at a park in Sillim, Gwanak-gu, Seoul, Thursday. She was taken to a hospital for treatment but died from her injuries Saturday.

The horrendous crime came after the country witnessed a series of violent crimes in recent weeks, including two stabbing rampages in Seoul and Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.

It is also disheartening that police and government authorities failed to stop the attack even as they stepped up public security in the wake of such violent crimes perpetrated on apparently random targets in public places.

Last week's case is yet more heinous, as Choi allegedly had planned the attack and rape. He told police that he frequented the park close to his home and knew the areas where there were no surveillance cameras.

Given that the location of the crime was so commonplace -- a trail about 200 meters away from an apartment complex and was often used by residents -- it has heightened concerns about public safety across the nation.

These violent crimes are taking place everywhere -- from subway stations and department stores to streets and hiking trails -- and the nature of the crimes is turning more violent and random. As in the case of Choi, they are premeditated in a way that exploits the blind spots of public safety.

Following the fatal stabbing incident in Seoul last month, the number of murder threats posted on social media has been on the rise, even though law enforcement authorities are tracking down those who upload such posts.

On Monday, the National Office of Investigation said police have detected 431 online murder threats and apprehended 192 people for posting the threats since July 21 when a man killed one person and injured three others near Sillim Station in Seoul. Police arrested 20 people over the threats.

Also on Monday, authorities were alerted about an online post in which a person threatened to attack people with a knife at Gangnam Station in southern Seoul. The post was reportedly uploaded under an account belonging to a police official.

The post was deleted but police said they were tracking down who had written it, adding that they would check whether the person is an incumbent police officer.

Since the knife rampage last month, the government has taken measures to strengthen public safety, while police have deployed more than 10,000 officers as well as the special unit and armored vehicles for patrols.

Some critics have raised questions about whether the current measures are enough to stem violent crimes. Others point out that ramping up police patrols on the streets is not sustainable.

Experts have called for a comprehensive crime prevention system. One controversial issue involves the installation of more surveillance cameras aimed at monitoring and preventing crimes in public places. Of course, the issue of protecting privacy should be thoroughly discussed before installing more cameras.

At the same time, residents have urged police to patrol areas that are crime black spots and to take prompt action when people report about dangerous situations.

In a related move, the Justice Ministry said it is planning to introduce life imprisonment without parole amid public calls for stronger punishment for those who commit ruthless attacks. The ministry’s plan to revise the Criminal Act comes as the Constitutional Court is set to decide whether the death penalty should be abolished. South Korea hands out the death penalty in convictions but no executions have been carried out since December 1997.

Considering the gravity of increasing violent crimes, all stakeholders including the government, police and lawmakers are urged to jointly come up with effective policies and measures to beef up public security.