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Grisly murder reignites debate over leniency on ‘mentally, physically weak’
  • By Lee Han-soo
  • Published 2018.10.22 17:12
  • Updated 2018.10.22 17:12
  • comments 0

More than 874,000 people had signed a petition on the Cheong Wa Dae website as of Monday urging the government to harshly punish the suspect, who brutally stabbed a part-timer at an internet cafe to death last week.

Kim Sung-soo, 29, the assailant of the Gangseo-gu Internet Café stabbing, talks to reporters before being transported to the National Forensic Psychiatry Hospital in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, for a month-long psychiatric evaluation to verify whether he has depression. (Captured from Yonhap News YouTube)

The petition drive, which began last Wednesday, collected the highest number of signatures since President Moon Jae-in introduced the online platform in August last year.

The case goes back to Oct. 14, when the suspect, Kim Sung-soo asked a 21-year-old part-time worker, surnamed Shin, to remove some trash leftover from a previous customer at the Internet café, also called here PC bang (room) in Gangseo-gu, Seoul.

The conversation soon led to an argument, forcing Shin to call the police. After police arrived, the situation seemed to have resolved as Kim left the place. Soon, however, Kim returned with a knife and stabbed Shin several times in the face.

Shin was immediately transferred to Ewha Woman’s University Medical Center but was pronounced dead the following day.

Namkoong Ihn of the emergency medicine department at Ewha Woman’s University Medical Center, who treated Shin, wrote on his Facebook that he counted 32 stab marks on the victim’s face, adding there were none on his stomach or chest.

“After the first cardiac arrest, Shin’s heart never returned to its normal state, the patient lost the same amount of blood as the blood transfusion the hospital was giving him, and stopped only when his heart stopped pumping,” NamKoong said. “We continuously gave him cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but soon severe disseminated intravascular coagulation followed, which led to his death.”

During the short time, Shin received more than 40 packs of blood, and there was blood everywhere later, he recollected.

The case caused a public uproar after news media reported that Shin had submitted a medical certificate that stated that he was suffering from severe depression.

Such actions are not unusual for assailants who face conviction for violent crimes as Korean courts tend to take a lenient stance with offenders who are “mentally or physically weak” during their offense, including being under the influence of alcohol or struggling with a psychological disorder.

Such a history of ruling with regards to mentally or physically weak offenders has caused citizens to demand the judicial branch not to go easy on the assailant this time around.

Regarding the assailant’s depression and motive, Namgoong added, “It may not be his fault that Kim had depression. However, the depression did not give him a knife. Rather the debate about mental and physical weakness is making thousands of people suffering from depression a potential killer.”

The Korean Hospital Doctors Association and Korean Employed Psychiatrists Association also released a similar statement on Sunday stating that the court should not confer leniency on the grounds of mental and physical weakness.

“Mental illness itself is not a cause of crime nor a means of justifying crime,” the two associations said. "If a patient has a mental problem, that needs to be treated. And if there is a crime that needs punishment, it also needs to be punished.”

The mental illness, including depression, and the mental and physical weakness are entirely different concepts, and the term mental and physical weakness is a legal notion rather than a psychiatry term, it added.

The two associations also stressed they regret that the public views the offender's criminal activity as a cause of mental illness, which in turn, is turning to a means of commuting one’s sentence.

“Such public consensus can serve as a stigma for many people who have a mental illness,” the two groups wrote.

The police have transported Kim to the National Forensic Psychiatry Hospital in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, where he will go through a month-long psychiatric evaluation to verify whether he has depression.


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