There have been debates over the intensity of punishments imposed on criminals committing felonies. News and reports on young girls harassed by men are showing up more than ever. Notwithstanding, the legal system is inclined to tolerate criminals and now most of the people question its authority. To erect civil order and the public respect for the authority of the legal system, harsh punishment should be an agreeable method.
The idea of harsh punishment is strongly emphasized along with the idea of maintaining civil order. The goal of harsh punishment is not to pull revenge from criminals who have been an outcast, but to better enable them to function in the society as a reasonable human. John Rawls, the first political philosopher ever to create a heated debate about justice in the 70s and 80s, repeatedly employed the necessity of harsh punishment as a means to maintain civil order in his A Theory of Justice. The first step is to employ a punishment against crime. In short, harsh punishment should be imposed to severe felonies.
Scrolling down the recent articles reporting felony, murder and rape were the two crimes that constitute over half of the reports. Yet, some criminals did receive a lenient punishment after an appeal. A rape case that took place on October 5 involved a man in his mid-20s and an elementary school girl. According to the constitutional law, having intercourse with a girl under 13 years old is confined as a behavior against the constitution. However, the court mitigated the sentence of the convicted man for the reason that two people had the relationship under mutual agreement. This judicial decision laid a truck of critical, even reproaching, public opinions. The mass believes the prior sentence was too lenient.
Statistics from the National Police Agency show the custody rate of sexual criminals has decreased from 37% in 2003 to 14% last year. Moreover, the reports of sexual crimes have increased from 11,107 to 19,830 cases. Since the President of the Supreme Court pursued the way of erecting legal justice through putting human rights as the supreme value, the paternalistic judgment proved hampering of establishing virtual justice nowadays.
Paternalistic attitude and martinetism should be clearly defined from each other. The failing of this distinguishment resulted in a chaotic murder sweeping society. Murder is the worst crime amongst felonies and is spreading in the society like a contagious virus. Yet again, the legal system, under the purpose of a “rational” decision, listens to every single excuses and the state of the criminal. As if tolerance is the standard of imposing punishment, the death penalty or life imprisonment are quite rare among decisions. Tolerance is only necessary in the case of murder that inevitably occurred due to self-defense and this is clearly stated in the constitutional law. No matter what a court of law classifies murder into something, it results in the taking of a human life. Nowadays, killers are back on the street in less time than criminals committing white-collar crimes or other non-life-taking criminals.
Some people argue in the stance of defending juveniles. Yet in Korea there are youngsters committing crimes that are similar, or worse than adults. If they receive a relatively lenient punishment and get back to school or advance to college, what would happen? Some hope that a higher education institute such as university will install them with a refined personality, yet juveniles who have a rap sheet may commit crimes to get revenge against society and for their own purposes. In the U.S. alone, at least 2,381 people are serving life without parole since they were juveniles for taking another life. The Supreme Court of Korea should present little choice in weighing the sentence, so the crime case results in a heavy punishment.
Anyone who pays attention to the criminal justice systems in Korea knows that as a whole, Korea is less punitive than any other countries in its responses to crimes. A society which is armed with justice is best in serving the public and this principle is rooted in centuries of history and rich comparative analysis. Justice should be harsh in order to establish civil order and to make citizens realize that they are safe. Harsh justice is original and inviolable. This is what the society is longing for.