An increasing number of young people turn to theft amid the continuing recession. According to the National Police Agency, the number of 20-something thieves arrested across the country was 15,752 in 2007 but jumped to 22,298 in 2009.
Since these are the arrest figures, the actual number of young thieves is likely to be much greater.
Youth unemployment is one likely reason. The employment rate for graduates from four-year universities in February was 51 percent, meaning almost half of fresh graduates are out of work.
The employment rate for graduates of junior and vocational colleges was a little higher at 56 percent, but one in four who found a job earn less than W1 million (US$1=W1,129) a month.
Many graduates have trouble paying the interest on their student loans even if they find jobs.
"Many 20-something people are arriving in Seoul from provincial regions to find jobs or continue their studies," said Kwak Dae-kyung, a professor of police administration at Dongguk University. "The number of 20-something thieves will keep increasing if the recession continues. I'm concerned about a vicious circle, because it's virtually impossible for them to find jobs if they have a criminal record, so they just return to crime."