In the aftermath of Netflix's popular drama "Juvenile Justice,” juvenile delinquency is drawing attention. This is a drama where the judge continues a legitimate trial toward the offender who is a criminal minor. And it deals with the subject that makes viewers think about the issue of whether criminal minors should be protected by the law of criminal minors regardless of the types of crime.
The term ‘juvenile delinquent’ refers to the children between the ages of 10 and 14 who have committed a crime in violation of penal statutes. Since they are not old enough to be held criminally responsible, they are subject to protective measures and are not punished even if they commit a criminal act. In addition, even if they commit a violent crime, they won't be subject to the same criminal punishment as adults, but they will be subject to protection under the Family Court Juvenile Division or the District Court Juvenile Division. Protection measures include commission on custody, orders of lecture and social service, and probation. Even if the law of ‘juvenile delinquent’ is defined as the law that protects children, the lowering of the age of criminal minors has been continuously discussed with the question of whether the law itself is just.
According to the National Police Agency, the number of juvenile delinquents has increased by 58% over the past five years. It was 7,896 in 2017, 9,049 in 2018, 10,22 in 2019, 15,84 in 2020, and 12,501 in 2021. The number increased by 35% from 6,286 in 2017 to 8,474 in 2021.
The lowering of the age of juvenile delinquent has been steadily discussed from old times, but it has failed to become realized. In the 20th National Assembly, there were seven amendments proposed to lower the age of criminal minor, but all of them were discarded. However, at the National Assembly level, bills are being proposed in the direction of gradually lowering the age standard for juvenile delinquents.
Lawmaker Lee Jong-bae proposed a ‘partial revision of Juvenile Act’ to adjust the age of criminal minors to under 12, excluding the ones under 19 who commit specific violent crimes such as murder or rape from the protection law. Another lawmaker Seo Young-kyo also proposed a revised bill of lowering the application age from under 19 to under 18 and of raising the least upper bound of the age to 13.
Although the pros and cons vary each other regarding the downward direction of the criminal minor, it can be argued that leaning toward the position of approval is the right implementation of justice. If the country has created the Delinquent Juvenile Act to protect immature children, but some of them abuse it and take the law lightly, it is going to a completely different direction from its original purpose. If adolescents take the law lightly and are released without much guilt and severe punishment for violent crimes, the offending juvenile who re-enters society as an adult cannot be said to fit in as a member of society. In addition, the Delinquent Juvenile Act is used as a tool for adolescents to take the law lightly. Therefore, experts argue that lowering of the age of criminal minors must take effect.
In the current situation where teenagers do not feel guilty about their crimes and rather abuse laws made to protect them, the harm that our society must suffer will grow bigger and bigger unless the age decline of criminal minors is realized. The country and laws exist to help all citizens live protected in a safe society. If the law is abused by a certain age group, it would be desirable to amend it for the rights and safety of the majority of citizens. Meanwhile, we must all bear in mind that punishment is not the only solution against crimes. The nation, society, school, and family should efforts to lead young people to live in a healthy state of mind.