Rampaging drunks arrested by police
By Kim Susan Se-jeong
“A drunk man ran towards me with his pants down in broad daylight. I was frightened.”
The 30-year-old woman was assaulted by a drunk at a park in Gangbuk District, northern Seoul. The man, who looked to be in his forties, exposed his privates and chased her, yelling “I’ll get you, you *****.” He made threatening gestures as if he would attack her. It was only when she started recording him with her cellphone camera that he pulled up his pants and ran away.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency received the victim’s call later that day. The Gangbuk station checked the video, confirming the man as Park, 46, who had been in and out of the station for drunken violence. The police arrested Park for multiple cases of sexual molestation on May 29.
Park had been punished for 10 cases of drunken violence and sexual molestation since November 1999. Park’s mother, who had been assaulted by her son while he was drunk, locks her door when he smells of alcohol.
“Park showed us a medical certificate which states he has a mental disorder Degree 2, saying ‘Punish me if you can.’ That’s why he got light punishment,” said a spokesperson for the police. “Park has been involved in countless cases of drunken violence and sexual assault, but he was often released with a warning.”
Up until now, crimes committed under the influence of alcohol have been excused as “drunken behavior.” Thus convicts received relatively light punishments, resulting in a large number of victims.
To end the tyranny of drunkards, Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan declared “war on drunken violence,” upon taking office, May 10.
Lee, 47, who was arrested by the Dongdaemun police on May 14, engaged in 69 confirmed cases of physical and verbal violence while drunk. Kang, 52, who was known to create disturbances all over the Yeongdeungpo Market, Seoul, was arrested for murdering a customer at a portable street-food stall.
A total of 32 arrests were made since the declaration of “war.” The police have increased the number of crackdowns and applied punishments more strictly, giving victims a chance to breathe a sigh of relief.
“I used to be afraid of reporting drunks to the police because they would come back to ruin my store,” said Kim, 58, who runs a restaurant in a market. “Now, I can relax for a while.”
“Arresting them and preventing them from drinking will save both the victims and the offenders,” said Lee, 63, who owns a restaurant in Dongdaemun, central Seoul.
But some believe that drunken violence cannot be stopped simply with harsh punishments. Alcoholics cannot escape the vicious cycle without proper treatment. Experts say that police should stop sentencing offenders by the number of previous convictions.
“Alcohol addiction cannot be cured with just physical arrest,” said lawyer Park Ju-min from People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. “Criminals should be punished strictly, but we need to draw a clear line between treatment and punishment.”