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Lawmakers clash over measures against youth crimes on TV

Politicians and experts clashed over the best way to deal with the growing number of violent juvenile crimes across South Korea during last night’s special debate program on KBS.

During the two-hour special “Citizens’ Assembly,” lawmakers Pyo Chang-won and Keum Tae-seop, both from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, went head to head with their differing views on whether toughening punishments for youth crimes would prove effective.

Rep. Pyo, who wants to see tougher youth penalties introduced, said, “Punishments need to be tougher for violent crimes while those who have committed minor offenses need to be reformed and be shown the way.”

lawmakers Pyo Chang-won. (KBS)
lawmakers Pyo Chang-won. (KBS)

Pyo added it is hard to bring justice to victims if violent criminals do not face due consequences because of their age.

Keum, on the opposite side of the debate, upped the ante during his final statement, saying, “If our decision on the show is made into law, it means children younger than 18 could be subject to either capital punishment or life in prison.”

Rep. Keum said though the talk show does not hold any legal impact, viewers needed to use discretion in making a decision before the final vote on the show.

Lawmaker Keum Tae-seop. (KBS)
Lawmaker Keum Tae-seop. (KBS)

During the show, Rho Young-hee, a lawyer at Seoul law firm Cheon Il, showed the audience text messages exchanged between juvenile criminals talking about going to youth detention centers so casually, delivering home the point that lax penalties may be taken advantage of.

The studio audience took part in a total of three polls throughout the show, and viewers saw the opinion sway only slightly, with an overwhelming majority consistently voting in favor of introducing tougher punishments for juvenile crimes.

The first vote saw over 80 percent wanting to see juvenile criminals face tougher penalties while the third vote saw the number drop to 78 percent.

The show drew moderately successful ratings of 3.5 percent viewership despite airing in two parts of 1 1/2-hour intervals late at night.

Last night’s topic came against the background of a growing number of violent crimes committed by young people in the country.

According to date from police, the number of violent crimes such as murder, robbery and rape committed by people aged between 14 and 18 stood at 16,026 last year, up about 10 percent from 2016.

By Yim Hyun-su (