The 'Frog Boys Disappearance Case' is famous amongst Korean people, so it is likely that most Korean people will have heard about it in the news. The case is in regards to an unsolved mystery where five children went to catch frog and didn't come back, and were later found to have turned to ash. It remains one of three high profile unsolved cases and still remains unsolved. However, the ’Statute of Limitations’ for this case ended in 2006, and the investigation didn't progress any further. So, a number of people regard this pitiful case as a tragedy. Sadly, lots of cases have gone the same way as this case, which means that because of the Statute of limitations many cases remain unsolved since the terms are overdue. However, on the 28th July of this year, the abolition of the 'Statute of limitations Bill' was passed through the Cabinet of the National Assembly. Now, the abolition of the statute of limitations has shed a new light on its validity and thus, this issue is gaining a lot of attention from both parliament and the general public.
(1) What Is the Definition of the 'Statue of Limitations'?
The statute of limitations meant that the state was unable to prosecute someone for a crime, and the right of arraignment of the prosecutor disappeared after a specific period of time ended. In essence, this meant that although someone might have been arrested for a crime and there was decisive evidence in support, it was impossible for a court to put the accused on trial, due to the case having expired. This was a very harsh law for both the victim and the victim's family. How could it possible to put a due date on a crime? We just watched them and couldn’t do anything about it just because the period had expired. Fortunately, this July, the statute of limitations was abolished and it seemed that there would be no problems at all. We must watch now how the abolishment of the statute of limitations affects our society.
(2) The Statute of limitations, The Beginning of the Revocation
a. Tae-hwan's Law
As aforementioned, the statute of limitations has been a controversial topic and movements to abolish the statute had been in process for some time. 'Tae-hwan's law' was at the center of those movements. 'Tae-hwan's attack was a terrible tragedy that took place in May 1999. When a six year old named Kim Tae-Hwan passed along Dongu Street, which is located in Daegu, he was killed when he was attacked by a man who poured sulfuric acid on his head. It had seemed that the attack would be about to be the permanent unsolved accident. But luckily, an assembly woman Seo Yeong-kyo (Congresswoman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy) proposed a bill regarding the revocation of the statute of limitations for crimes of murder. As the amendment was proposed, most of the congressmen agreed on it, and the bill was finally passed to save the victim's family. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations regarding Tae-Hwan's incident had already passed.
b. Remnant of Tae Hwan's Law
Actually the attack on Tae Hwan couldn't be applied to the revision of this law as the statute of limitations had been previously repelled. But still, other unsolved cases were able to be reinvestigated through this law revision. There will be no more such regulation of murder cases such as the 'Ulsan Karaoke Bar Murder incident', 'The Daejeon Kookmin Bank Murder and Burglary Case', 'The Jeonju Policeman Murder Case' and so on. Now, we don't have to waste any time, since the law which has imprisoned our rights is over. Now, Tae Hwan's law is a hope for unsolved cases and is a very valuable policy to a victim's family.
(3) Sometimes, Society Needs Limitations
a. Realistic Limitations
The statute of limitations has been in existence for the last 60 years. In this point of time, we can guess that the statute of limitations has been necessary. There are statute of limitations several reasons as to why the existence of the statute of limitations was necessary and also some reasons why it couldn't be neglected. First, as time went on, a victim's memory can fade and evidence can be misplaced, and then there would not be enough proof to convict someone of a crime in a court of law. Due to this, it was difficult to show the fairness of judges. Also, crime takes place ceaselessly in our contemporary society. So, the effectiveness of continuing investigations gradually decreases. In the end, the authorities were forced to give up the investigations, incomplete. Moreover, the incidents that happened a long time ago were really hard to investigate since the costs for maintaining resources that store and keep evidence cannot be neglected.
b. The Impact of Social Current
The emotions of the victims and the social feeling towards a crime can soothe overtime. But as time passes, the interest surrounding a crime gradually diminishes, and the public finally dull to the necessity of the punishment. In actual fact, the 'Ogeori case', which was about to become an unfinished case due to the statute of limitations, could yet still be completed because the statute of limitations was abolished following the passing of Tae Hwan's law. Tae Hwan's law was proposed right after the journalism TV program, ’The Unanswered’, shed light on this incident again, and it gathered people's interests. So people protested to reinvestigate the case strongly on the police bulletin boards. Finally, a congressman, who felt pity towards the pleas, collected opinions from the public and the bill name of ‘Tae Hwan’s Law’ was established.
(4) Unforgettable Pain in Time
From a realistic point of view, clearly the statute of limitations needs to be carried out. However at the same time, criminals should be punished without any restrictions or limitations. If criminals aren't caught and cases remain unsolved just because of the time limits, the period of the statute of limitations will be an unforgettable and painful time for the victims. Abolition of the statute of limitations is the solution for curing their pain, via reinvestigation.
Now, as the level of scientific investigation develops and becomes more specialized, evidence can be preserved for a long time. In particular, the police use main evidence such as DNA. Therefore, the possibility to find a criminal will increase, and there is no need to worry about the retention period for evidence. Furthermore, the possibility of convicting someone for a crime will improve, due to not having any timescales.
(5) Things to Do Beyond the Abolition of the 'Statue of Limitation'
a. Only for the Murder Cases?
This new revision means that the statute of limitations has been abolished only in cases of murder. You know that murder is a very horrible crime. At the same time, however, you also recognize that other crimes such as assault, robbery and sexual molestation are terrible crimes too. So the statute of limitations needs to be expanded toward all crimes. For example, since the case of killing doesn't always prove intentionality such as rape is exceptional in the current revision policy, the law should be revised again to punish all kinds of crimes without time limits. This is the way to secure our nation.
b. To Make Law Worthy
If the statute of limitations disappears itself, there will be changes in other fields. First, many problems will arise at once, such as how investigations will be compared to current crimes, and how measures will be taken when cases are continually unsolved. Just passing a law is not a solution to everything. To not be nominal, government must make sure of the law's realization and expansion. It seems that law always stands for the strong. Law should be fair and equal for everyone, and it should support the weak too. The statute of limitations is in same situation too. We must watch Tae-Hwan's law carefully all the time, whether the law loses its purpose and whether it is used in a proper way.
Although the statute of limitations has been abolished for only one aspect crime, 'murder', it stands for a great development in Korea. This abolition of the statute of limitations should bring positive outcomes. And the problem that we have to focus on is not the attitude of bystanders who have the attitude of "Whether the law exists or not", but the attitude of an active person who might think more like, "I will look at laws carefully so that everyone is protected and justice can be served". The abolition of the statute of limitations has gathered the public’s attention, and they are now wondering how it can positively promote a better quality of life.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >