What They Said is a weekly series on the quotes behind the headlines.
In the past month or so, South Korea has seen a number of violent attacks, with the victims seemingly chosen at random. On the afternoon of July 21, Cho Seon, a 33-year-old man, bought two knives and took a cab to Sillim Station, Seoul. There, he attacked four men in their 20s and 30s, all of whom were complete strangers. One of the victims died from his injuries, and Cho was soon arrested. On August 3, 22-year-old Choi Won-jong drove a car onto a sidewalk, injuring five passers-by, and proceeded to head into a mall where he attacked nine people with a knife, killing one. On August 17, another man in his 30s, whose full name has not yet been released by the authorities, used brass knuckles to attack and rape a woman in her 30s on her way to work. The attack occurred around noon at a park in Sillim, Seoul. The victim passed away on August 19, two days after the assault. And most recently, on August 19, a man in his 50s attacked two men in their 20s, both of whom fortunately only suffered minor injuries.
Along with these violent attacks, there has been a rise in the number of threats of violence made in online communities. The Korean National Police Agency reported that since these attacks began on July 21, there have been 431 internet postings threatening mass attacks, and 192 of the authors of these posts have been arrested.
These threats included:
“Seohyeon Station, on Friday, I will stab 20 Korean men.”
— Anonymous, August 4, 2023
“Let me take part in this trend. I’m going to Everland today, and starting at three, I’ll kill everyone in my sight with whatever weapons and means possible. Beware.”
— Twitter user, August 5, 2023
“Gyeyang Station, 7 o’clock, I will kill 20 people. I’ll kill all the smoking teens. I used to be bullied in high school, and I abhor iljin. Even if I’ve killed 20 people, I will kill more if they are iljin. The murder weapon will be a chainsaw.”
— Anonymous, August 5, 2023
One problem with these threats is that many have been made as a joke or a prank. A number of the people behind them were minors, who later claimed that they were not going to commit murder and only uploaded these posts as a joke.
The authorities have taken a firm stance against the attacks and threats. The National Police chief Yoon Hee-keun held a press conference on August 4 and made the following statement:
The recent knife-related crimes and similar copycat crimes at Sillim Station and Seohyeon Station have led to a surge in unease in our country. The current situation is one of urgency, as various heinous crimes are severely jeopardizing the safety of our citizens. Acts of violence directed at innocent civilians are, in truth, acts of terrorism. At this moment, with firm resolve, the police is initiating a special security operation to address weapon-related crimes and associated copycat crimes, from now until the public’s sense of security is restored. First, we will intensify patrols in public spaces frequented by citizens by deploying local police, mobile police units, and detective personnel to swiftly suppress any criminal activities. Suspicious individuals carrying knives and those exhibiting unusual behavior will be subject to selective searches in accordance with legal procedures. We earnestly request your understanding and cooperation.
In dealing with knife-related crimes, our officers will not hesitate to utilize appropriate police tactics, such as the use of firearms and Taser guns, with the utmost priority placed on ensuring public safety. We will provide unwavering support to police officers in the field, applying provisions for exoneration of police officers by prioritizing public safety and the enforcement of the law.
Additionally, we will vigorously address irresponsible and baseless cyber threats of heinous crimes and related fake news. We will commit our entire investigative capabilities to quickly identify and apprehend those responsible for such posts and impose the severest penalties within the bounds of the law.
We will dedicate our efforts to secure the safety of our people in everyday living spaces through active collaboration with local governments, community watch groups, and private security firms, and we will discuss ways to strengthen security infrastructure and improve laws and regulations with relevant government agencies.
Lastly, we offer our condolences to those who have been affected by the series of recent heinous crimes. With unwavering determination, the 140,000-strong police force will continue to protect everyday lives of our citizens. Thank you.”
— Yoon Hee-keun, Chief of the Korean National Police Agency, August 4, 2023