Crimes committed by boys under 14 are increasing, and some commit crimes in full knowledge of the fact that they are too young to face criminal charges. According to the Justice Ministry, the number of young criminals almost doubled from 6,060 in 2005 to 11,609 in 2009.
According to state prosecutors, serious offenses committed by juveniles, such as robbery and rape, accounted for 13.1 percent as of 2010. But from 2007 to 2010, 58.1 percent of sentences meted out to such juveniles by courts ordered family or relatives to manage their behavior. In only 0.4 percent of the cases minor perpetrators were sent to juvenile detention centers. Even in cases involving murder or other major crimes, the maximum sentence was two years in a juvenile detention center, while most offenders received light sentences primarily consisting of placing them in the custody of guardians.
Korean courts set the age limit for juvenile criminals 30 years ago. But since then 14-year-olds have grown bigger and more advanced in terms of mental age. Kim Jin-sook, the head of juvenile crime investigations at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, said, "Crimes committed by juveniles are becoming more serious while the offenders are getting younger. We need to reduce the leeway given to offenders in this age group."
An official at the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office said, "We should not use age as a standard but consider a wide variety of punitive measures according to the gravity of the offense."