A Compact Jurisdiction Profile of South Korean Criminal Justice System

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A Compact Jurisdiction Profile of South Korean Criminal Justice System


In the field of criminology, in-depth research to non-Western countries has not been conducted much (Joo, 2015). Criminal justice system in Asia countries has been established in the different cultural and social contexts, it may be one of the reasons for being developing and lack of research.

Lee (2012) pointed out the criminal justice system in South Korea has been developed rapidly within 50 years due to the dynamic changes in the nation. In fact, the initial criminal procedure appeared in 1954 after the liberation from Japanese colonisation. Since then, South Korean government has progressed the system gradually, in terms of policing and formation as the crimes became various and increased rate. In this essay, a basic description of South Korean criminal justice system will be given, in relation to social and cultural aspects of crime and crime control.

Cultural, socio-demographic, and geo-political factors

In Korean culture, the extreme devotion to study is very common because people prefer to have white-collar jobs. In fact, the rate of white-collar crimes such as insurance frauds, embezzlement and tax invasion is statistically higher than other countries, taking the first or second place in the world (World Health Organisation, 2013). Also, South Korea is the one of the strongest countries for information technology, and laypeople are at easy to access to the internet. Thus, the cybercrime and intellectual property violations has been considered to be a significant issue (Joo and Yoon, 2008).

South Korean criminal justice system has been paid attention in relation to the sex crimes from their population. Women are often discriminated and sexually harassed in many social situations such as work place, marriage, and in public. Child sex abuse is the most significant issue recently, as the number of commitments increased from 15,709 to 24,613 within 4 years (Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, 2014).

From the report of Supreme Prosecutors’ Office (2014), empirical data were revealed that crime rate is higher in Gangwon and Jeju regions which are very rural areas. Also, the dynamic urbanisation in countries leaded the national financial crisis which is related to the increase in brutal crimes rate, and organised crime’s (Lee, 2006). Also, the crime rate of foreign workers has been raised since late 1990’s, due to the increased influx of population.

On the other hand, South Korea changed the ruling political party 10 years ago, that occurred changes in criminal justice system in terms of legislation and procedure. And the international relations with North Korea, Japan and China can be another factor to South Korean jurisdiction, considering its unique situation.

Generally, the legal culture in Korea often takes on a traditional nature, as people have a tendency of being not used to resolving conflicts through the court. Rather, an informal resolution, such as coordination or conciliation, more often provides justice in some ways.

Criminal Justice Framework and Key Criminal Justice Institutions

South Korean government is based on the centralised tripartite systems, consists of three main parts: (1) executive; (2) legislative; and (3) judiciary bodies, according to the website (Government of Republic of Korea, n.d.). In South Korea, criminal justice system such as prosecution, courts and prisons, is the responsibility of the central government as there is no localised CJS.

In terms of procedure, the criminality is committed when it is accused by victims. Also, the basic structure of criminal procedure takes on the nature of both an inquisitorial and adversarial system as the nature of Korean criminal procedure was merged from American and German criminal procedures (Lee, 2012).

The most powerful institution in the Korean criminal justice system is the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office (SPO), it is under the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) that in charge of the criminal affairs, preventions, low enforcement, and corrections (Ministry of Justice, n.d.). The organisation that deals with policing is the Korean National Police Agencies (KNPA), under the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. Among the judiciary bodies, Supreme Court of Korea is the highest judicial tribunal of the country.

Key issues in crime and crime control

Child sex abuse is get more concern in Korean society, after the several shocking cases of victims. The legislation for this crime was amended in 2009 for punishment, to prevent further commitment crimes but people raised the claim for this act in terms of its efficacy and vague range of application (Choi, Choo, Choi, & Woo, 2015). In fact, there was no record for child sex abuse 10 years ago from SPD statistics (2003).

Fast growing technologies and cultures leaded the absence of preventions and treacherous personnel has been warned to the Korean criminal justice. Moreover, the fear of organised crime has been increased, due to its domestic influence and the illegal activities across the neighbouring countries (Lee, 2006). The main problem of organised crime is the easy access to their major illegal activities, they supplied illegal entertainment such as sex business, gambling, drug, and construction-related business where there were a huge amount of cash flow. Declaration of “War on Crime” in 1990, a large-scale campaign, contributed to the arrest and prosecution rates and decreased or the crime rates (Joo, 2003; Lee, 2006).

In fact, SPO and KNPA keep checking each other for the power of authorities including investigation and it is known that there has been conflicts between them. According to Kim’s research (2013) the general public has been developed distrust for those administrations due to conflicts, it may affect the crime control in ineffective way. The Act on Citizen Participation in Criminal Trials was newly adopted in the purpose of building trust and between citizens and criminal justice system, and enhancing the transparency of procedures (Lee, 2006).


South Korea has developed its criminal justice system in many ways. As discussed above, Korea has endeavoured to find effective and proper measures for punishment considering public security. Changes in policing may affect crime rate and crime control, but they did not always resulted in positive sides. Thus, Korean criminal law and procedure have a long way to go beyond to accomplish further, which is a substantial step for the Korean criminal justice system and society toward more effective crime control and more secure environment.


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