There is no perfect law, that’s true. Many factors – emotions, culture, power, and morals – make it so. Because it is hard to be perfect with the law, the basis, it causes confusion. When the police make decisions about of the law, it is still hard to be perfect. To make it public, the press has to deliver the news with its own balanced consideration. And, news receivers get the news autonomously. Each step needs its own standard that helps get closer to being righteous. In order to see this flow of steps, it will be good to reconsider Cho’s case from Ansan. This cover story will give descriptions about how confusing it is in revealing a criminal's identity. These are seen from three aspects of Korean society: applicable Act of Cho’s case, the reaction of media, and of people around this.
As a basis of decision, the law
The clause of the law in question, which allows the police to disclose information of criminal suspects, is found below.
For sure, it is true that this clause, which is at the center of hot issues, has many problems.
Looking at the provisions, releasing criminals’ identity needs a prerequisite of an inhumane manner of killing and sufficient evidence. But, some point out that there is no specific standard in judging "cruelness" and "inhumanity.” It is under the excuse that this matter is not an assessment which could be easily dealt with objectively. Also, whether to apply this law or not is dependent entirely upon a police agency which holds a deliberative meeting. It means that the judicature is not involved in the meeting. Moreover, this law had not been applied to some cases of more brutal murders. This was just because they had happened before the law was made. Until now, it’s not easy to establish any credible norm.
As an information provider, the press
Even though the police reveal the criminal’s name according to the law, if the media consent not to follow, the public would hardly know that information. Therefore, the role of the press is exceedingly crucial. The law having no credible norms as above, however, causes the press to also drift away from being steadfast in policy. They show different stances overall. Those who made Cho’s identity public are The Chosun Ilbo, Dong-A Ilbo, and other television stations. They immediately followed the police’s resolution by removing the blurred face, and by changing their report from just Mr. Cho to his real full name. However, some kept unraveling information. Those are the Hankyoreh and the Kyunghyang Shinmun. They appeared to be separated from any police agency. JTBC is at either side of the issue by worrying about it while revealing real name by itself. And, Mediaus is the one which is consistent to be critical of other media. You can confirm the variety by taking a look at the table below.
As a receiver, the citizens
If the press plays the major role in our society, shouldn’t we, as autonomous receivers, at least know what kinds of different positions they are taking? If so, what is public’s opinion up until now? It can be found in the research by Realmeter, a public survey specialized institution. It was conducted to 536 adults above the age of 19 years.
As shown in the diagram to the side, 87.4% of the public have agreed on revealing violent crime suspect's information. According to this survey, among the 87.4%, ‘totally agree’ was 69.2%, and ‘somewhat agree’ was 18.2%. People on the affirmative side answered that information is important; the public’s right to know, public interests, precaution of second crime, or punishment should be considered. The opposite side’s reasons were reasonable, too; human rights of the suspect, the presumption of innocence, or immense damage to relatives, the last of which reminds all of the implicative system where somebody close to a criminal could receive some responsibility of guilt. Of course, this system has disappeared, but still, unfortunately, the arrows of hatred go toward the wrong direction, the family of the criminal.
Time to look back, each one of us
Let’s consider first two letters briefly again. Surely you may not want to even think of yourself in that real situation. But let’s just suppose that you are victim A’s mother. Would you meekly accept the decision of police? How about being a murderer B’s sister? The answer is on you. Few examples of releasing identities of offenders were presented after. Good consequences could rise as in Virginia and miserable results could be brought about either. On what basis will you make your own norm and mind to define ‘rightness?'
김은서 기자 firstname.lastname@example.org