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Society Where a Middle School Student Turns into a Murderer

Society Where a Middle School Student Turns into a Murderer

Posted July. 10, 2003 21:46,   


He was a boy who got an average of 93 points in his final examination. Loving to read The Three Kingdoms written by Luo Guanzhong and never missing a class, he was known as a very polite student who has never made any trouble. That 12-year-old student killed a 4-year-old kindergartner by throwing the child from a top of a parking building. The reason? He said that he just wanted to tease the kid.

Newspapers in Nagasaki, where the crime occurred, reported the crime the most unlikely criminal committed in their special editions Wednesday. TV broadcasting stations followed the story closely everyday with their broadcasting cars parked in front of the police station in charge of the crime. Parents of children, feeling nervous, could not take their eyes off their kids.

The crime also sent shockwave to the political circles.

“ It is really shocking that a 12-year-old committed such a crime.” lamented Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi after hearing the breaking news Wednesday. The Minister of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, who is in charge of Japan` s education, also had hard time looking for words after hearing the crime. With shock and fear sweeping the nation, some are arguing for the lowering of the legal age over which is subject to criminal punishment from the current 14 to 12.

Yet, it was just last year when the legal age was lowered from 16 to 14. The reduction was triggered by a cruel crime in June 1997 when a 14-year-old middle school student beheaded an elementary school student in his neighborhood and put the head on the wall of a school. In 2000, teenagers aged 17 committed murders without any reason, which earned them an infamous nickname of “dangerous seventeen”.

The argument for the lowering of the legal age for the criminal penalty seems understandable considering the increase of serious crimes committed by teenagers. In Europe, the age is lower, with 10 in Britain and 13 in France.

But it is not certain whether this move can eradicate the crime committed by teenagers. Teenagers, who commit crimes spontaneously, do not seem to think about criminal penalties before they commit crimes.

More important is to find out the reason why such good students in normal times suddenly turn into perpetraters of cruel crimes. Many point out that teenagers are dying inside even though they seem to enjoy material prosperity. Others say that teenagers get enormous stress from the rigid society structure that stifles teenagers.

It would not be the challenge only Japan is facing to have social and cultural environment where teenagers can undergo healthy development in their body and mind.

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com