Date: October 28, 2014
Summary: This is an editorial article on the current debatable issue; declaration of brain death on a burglar after the beating of a 20-year-old man with very light clothes horse, resulting in 18 months of jail sentence on the young man, not the thief. The topic that is causing controversy is to what extent South Korean law accepts the self-defense and whether this is logical and reasonable.
More detailed story about the case: The young man, who hit the burglar, surnamed Choi returned home at about 3:00am after hanging out with friends as he had the enlistment ahead. When he opened the door what he confronted was an unidentified assailant walking out of the room where his mom and sister normally sleep together. Surprised and frightened at the presence of the unknown man, he grabbed what is near him, which was a very light clothes horse which even can be lifted with a little finger, then beat the burglar several times to subdue him. After putting the man down he calls for the police but the burglar’s condition was bad as his brain died due to the beating. Then the police arrest the young man for excessive use of force, charging him with an attempted murder. He is now sentenced with 18 months of imprisonment and the reason is that the burglar was a 50-year-old man who did not have a weapon and just tried to run away when he saw the young man came in.
Guidelines to build self-defense cases based on court precedent:
- Must be a defensive behavior
- One must not provoke a physical attack
- One must not start an attack
- One should not use weapon or dangerous objects
- One cannot use violence more harshly than the other party
- One’s physical damage must not be more severe than that of other party
- The other party must not be hurt enough to require hospitalization for more than three weeks
- Violence should stop after the other party ceases counterattacking
Opinion: Let me first of all introduce a famous self-defense shooting case in the U.S. Early in the morning a young woman calls 911 and says “there is this guy at my door. I’m here by myself with my infant baby. This guy is up to no good. Can I please get a dispatcher out here immediately?” But it takes time for the police to be dispatched. So the woman gets 12-gauge pistol and grabs her baby and locks bedroom door. Then she calls 911 again and says “I’ve got two guns in my hand. Is it okay to shoot him if he comes in this door?” the dispatcher’s response is “I can’t tell you that you can do that. But you do what you have to do to protect your baby. Well, you have to do whatever you can do to protect yourself.” So she shoots one of the two intruders who breaks into the door and kills him. What is more interesting is what happened to the other intruder who survived. When they broke into the house they did not have guns. Literally one was shot and killed just for breaking into the door. However, the other intruder was charged with first-degree murder because he is responsible for the death of his friend as they together planned to break into the house. The police also believe what the young mother did was a self-defense and the U.S. society is also fundraising to help her after knowing that she is a single mother, her husband passing away with a cancer.
I am not saying South Korea should do the same because even shooting is accepted as self-defense in the U.S. The U.S. doesn’t always accept shooting as self-defense and we have different social conventions to the U.S. However, our law must consider the desperate condition the victims are confronted. Furthermore, our right to protect oneself should be considered more seriously.
When 20-year-old man confronted the burglar, he was shocked and surprised. And as the burglar was walking out of the room where his mother and sister sleep, the first thing that came up to his mind was all sort of terrible crimes the unidentified person could have done, such as rape, murder, assault etc. If it were you, would you let the person go who did terrible things to your family? Or do your best to stop that person from escaping and be punished? How are we supposed to think logical and control our strength in that situation so that the suspect is not hospitalized over three weeks?
The court decision said the burglar had no weapon, was merely trying to run away and his action was excessive self-defense. Are we supposed to ask “do you have weapon with you?” or “are you going to run away or steal some more?” What a saint. Furthermore, it was not an excessive self-defense. Let’s say one follows the self-defense guideline and subdues the suspect just with less than three weeks of hospitalization level of violence. What if the suspect recovers consciousness while the victim is calling police and attacks again with whatever that is around him?
When we are under a desperate and threatening situation, we don’t think. We cannot be logical and be considerate of anything else. We don’t beat the person who we think is a danger to us to kill them. All we think about is the safety of ourselves. And the moment that our rationality comes back is when our fear settles down. If one thinks about themselves situating in the 20-year-old man’s position, one would definitely understand how ridiculous South Korea’s self-defense guideline is. Law makers should not try to use logic and rationality when amending the self-defense rules but try to put themselves in that situations and think about what action is considered logical in that situation.
(1) Drunken brawl [NOUN] a drunken brawl is a rough or violent fight carried out by a person who is drunk
- Korean Equivalent: 술에 취해 벌인 소동
- Personal Sentence: The harshness of punishment should never be effected by facts like whether it was a drunken brawl or not.