Violent crime like murder, robbery, rape and arson has more than doubled since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, but arrests and indictments have gradually declined. Those are the results of analysis by a team at the Korea Development Institute led by Dr. Kim Du-ol of violent crime and rates of arrest between 1967 to 2007.
The rise in violent crime far outpaced the increase in population, and it continues to rise even faster. Korea's population increased rapidly during the 70s and 80s but has tapered off since, growing 70 percent from 1967 to 2007. But over that same period, violent crime rose from 3,495 cases in 1967 to 20,922 in 2007.
In 1997, when the number of violent crimes shot up, population growth had stagnated, yet the number of such crimes committed for every 100,000 Koreans rose from 25.1 in 1997 to 43.2 in 2007.
Perpetrator profiles have also changed. Until 1987, first-time offenders accounted for 70 percent of violent crime. But in 2007, criminals with at least three previous convictions accounted for 49 percent. The average age of suspected criminals has also risen. In 1987, more than 50 percent of those committing violent crimes were teenagers, but in 2007, more than half of them were those in their 30s and 40s born in the 1960s and 70s.
One of the reasons, the team noted, was that those born during the 1960s were baby boomers and therefore large in number. A greater number of people in that group translated into a higher number of crimes, it said.
Other experts cite the unique background against which these people were raised. They were the last generation to experience absolute poverty during childhood and the first to suffer a sense of relative deprivation as they reached adulthood amid Korea's rapid economic growth. Kim Mun-cho, a sociologist at Korea University, said these people experienced the Asian crisis in their 30s and were forced into intense competition with others to survive, and the anger and resentment they felt could have led to the increase in crimes.
The rate of arrest of violent criminals fell from 93.1 percent in 1997 to 89.4 percent in 2007. Over the same period, indictment fell by more than half from 58.6 percent to 28.6 percent. The victims of violent crime are usually women, children and senior citizens, who are less capable of defending themselves.
Kwak Dae-kyung, a professor of police administration at Dongguk University, said, "The government has failed to deal with the surge in violent crime and is even unable to grasp the causes behind this trend." He called for a nationwide effort to ponder the implications of the trend and come up with effective measures.