The Necessity of Sentences for the Mentally Disabled

Kim Sung-soo, a suspect in the recent murder at an internet cafe in Gangseo-gu on October 14, 2018, tried to reduce his sentence by insisting he needs psychosomatic medicine and is currently submitting a certificate of depression. He argued he committed the crime because he is mentally disabled and the reason he killed the man is just computer games. In the National Petition, there were even articles saying that Kim should not be given a reduced sentence because of his mental disability. Then, what is a mentally disabled person and why do people disagree with reducing their sentences?

The mentally disabled person is a person who is not capable of discriminating things or making decisions due to serious mental disorders. As an example, a husband with a serious mental problem believes his wife is evil and kills her. In this case, he is innocent because his poor judgment was caused by his mental problem. He does not kill his wife intentionally, but he thought she was the devil, not his wife. This is the case for the mentally disabled person. In Article 10 of the Criminal Law (Psychotics; mentally disabled person) of South Korea, a person who has mental disorders shall be given a reduced sentence. Moreover, a person who is incapable of understanding right from wrong shall not be punished. 

Currently, the court does not always excuse the criminal actions of or remove responsibility from people who have mental disabilities. Their disabilities are not necessarily overlooked, and the cause of the disorder, the motive, and the behavior of the defendant before and after the crime are comprehensively considered. In particular, in recent cases of personality disorder such as depression, the degree of recognition is strict. 

To kill or hurt a person is a crime that should be punished severely. However, the sentences for such crimes varies for the disabled person. The murder case in Gangseo-gu will be strictly reviewed by law. Dr. Hanely, who is a professor in the Department of International Relations in KAC and a former international lawyer, commented on this incident by saying, “he should be punished because he said the reason for his crime was computer games, but if he has a really serious mental problem, the sentence will be reduced a little bit, and in that case, they need to send him to a psychiatric hospital.”