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[Op-Ed] Prank Calls

Posted November. 21, 2009 09:30,   


On Oct. 15, a six-year-old boy named Falcon caused an uproar in the U.S. His parents reported to police that Falcon floated away in a helium balloon. A balloon was found to be in the air and its trajectory was broadcast live for two hours. Denver International Airport was also blocked. Authorities even dispatched a helicopter and discovered the balloon, but found no boy inside because he was hiding in his attic as instructed by his parents.

The parents of the ”balloon boy” are known to have pulled hoax to grab public attention. Falcon’s parents met at an acting school in Hollywood and appeared on the ABC reality show “Wife Swap.” Police plan to indict the parents with obstruction of government officials’ duties. The couple could face up to six years in prison and a fine of up to 500,000 U.S. dollars. Such stupid parents must now pay for their deed.

In Korea, many people, especially the young, make prank calls to airlines or emergency rescue services. The Korea Airport Corp. said 11 bomb threats to airplanes were made in January. According to a document filed in the annual parliamentary audit of the government, 77.4 percent of calls received by emergency rescue services over the past three years were either false or prank calls. Accordingly, firefighters were dispatched on false pretenses 48,210 times last year, leading to economic losses of 3.8 billion won (3.2 million dollars).

In January, a junior high school student called Korean Air to make two bomb threats. A court ordered the parents of the student to pay 15 million won (12,931 dollars) to the airline in compensation. The parents might find the fine exorbitant, but the amount is not excessive. When a person makes a bomb threat, airlines must prevent all planes from taking off and landing and investigate passengers and luggage. This results in lots of late landings. In worse cases, airlines must refund the price of airfare. The relative impunity for youths making prank calls also contributes to the failure to eradicate their crimes. In the U.S., someone who makes a prank call can face 10 years in prison and a fine of 500,000 dollars. So Korean teachers and parents must teach their students and children on the negative effects of prank calls.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)