On October 14th, Kim Sung Soo, a mentally ill patient diagnosed with impulse disorder, a 29-year-old, repeatedly stabbed a PC Bang part-time worker to death. Although this murder happened more than a week before, it still has shaken everyone into terror, reminding that it could happen to anyone, anywhere. This tragic incident has sparked nationwide controversy in Korea, consisting of hot debates on mental illness and its relation to violent crimes. Netizens have voiced further concerns on the government’s lack of management in mental health.
According to surveillance footage, Sung Soo asked the worker to clean his cigarette buds and food plates before he goes to the bathroom. Although the worker did not clean it when he came back, he did eventually clean it up in order to end the small quarrel. However, because of the “bad service,” Sung Soo asked to reduce the fees while verbally abusing the worker. His brother and the victim called the police, stating, “This is the PC Bang, there’s a customer here who keeps cursing. I would like you to come here and do something.” When the cops came, they deemed the fight to be nothing pernicious, thus, left the scene after 15 minutes. As the conflict escalated, Sung Soo left the PC Bang and came back with a knife, threatening to kill the worker. Witnesses started to call the police, describing that the suspect was continuously stabbing the victim while his brother held on to the victim. When help came, the victim died from the injuries of his wounds.
Right after the case hit the news, the role of his brother was put into the spotlight, questioning his intentions of holding the victim. The ambiguity of his actions perplexed the Netizens, prompting to speculate various theories. When the suspect was interviewed, he strongly denied the malicious intentions of his brother, arguing that he made the killing more “difficult.” Still, some believe his brother grabbed him in order to attest his innocence while helping the suspect; on the other hand, others asserted that his brother was completely innocent and maintained good intentions in his actions. Currently, his brother does not hold accountable for the murder but still faces outside controversy.
More than 800,000 citizens signed an online petition attesting against the mitigation of Sung Soo’s punishment due to mental illness (the number of signatures passes the minimum number-20,000 signatures in order to propel a formal response from the president). The petitioner for this case acknowledged Sung Soo’s depressive tendencies from his formal medication but have condemned the system, criticizing “when will this country stop reducing charges against criminals who claim to have depression or mental problems.”
Although the criminal justice system may seem like the sole problem, Korea’s mental health administration should be considered as the bigger flaw of the government. According to Korean Police statistics, one-third of the violent crimes are derived from accidental anger rages, depicting lack of anger management for many Korean citizens. Furthermore, the number of patients with impulse disorder has increased 21.3 percent compared to 5 years ago. This problem has yet to be recognized since there has been no call for action against these dangerous emotional tendencies.
Currently, the mitigation of Kim Sung Soo’s punishment is still hotly debated, questioning if it is acceptable to forgive these violent tendencies from someone who has an impulsive disorder. Although it is necessary to comprehend these disorders as natural incidents, the Korean government cannot mitigate any more “accidental” crimes. Many of these “accidental” and violent crimes are derived from small disorders that could be cured. Thus, it is unacceptable to pardon for mild emotional disorders. On the other hand, crimes caused by severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia should have alleviated punishments. It is apparent that these boundaries are indefinite-the main dispute for this case between among politicians. Therefore, there is only one thing that everyone could say: It matters case by case. The government must deal each case with a basic principle/law, constructing and amending their criteria as they judge more suspects.
So, what’s the case for Kim Sung Soo? Does he run along the lines of severity? Is it his burden to control his emotions when he is diagnosed to be incapable of it? Coming to the final conclusion, a mitigation would not compromise Kim’s deeds as he embodies a feeble mental disorder-impulse disorder. It is at his responsibility to care for himself, including medication and therapy appointments. He has failed to uphold this obligation, thus, bringing the consequences to himself. But what about his brother? In brutal honesty, it is nearly impossible to hold his brother accountable due to the lack of evidence. Despite this mystery, everyone must wait until another tragedy is reported, deemed as “accidental murder,” in order to see if his brother embodies that same sanity.
Featured Image: KBS
– Mark Park (‘20)