[KoTEX Issue No. 10] Unraveling the Structure of Public Security: A Comprehensive Exploration
November 27, 2023 — South Korea is often praised for its outstanding public security, providing residents with the comfort of late-night strolls and afternoon shopping – all tied together with a shared sense of safety. However, the evolving landscape of crime has drained into the societal structure, leading to a profound reassessment of the very concept of "public security."
In South Korea particularly, the notorious "Don't Ask Why Attacks (묻지마 폭행)" incidents have significantly darkened the nation's security outlook. This summer, the shocking fatal stabbings at Shillim Station in Seoul and Seohyun Station in Gyeonggi Province brought attention to a troubling surge in unexpected hate crimes in Korea. The attack at Seohyun Station was particularly shocking, involving a vehicle that put the unsuspecting public in danger, followed by brutal stabbings. These "Don't Ask Why" crimes, marked by their non-specific and unprecedented nature, have heightened anxiety among citizens. In response, special forces have intensified patrols and searches on the streets to address the growing concerns stemming from these recent events. The boldness of these attacks necessitates crucial investigations into the state of public security and the changing landscape of violence within Korean society.
Extending beyond these aspects, a troubling global trend suggests a noticeable decline in the collective sense of public security. This raises several critical questions: When did individuals start believing that it's okay to openly display anger and violence? How and why has society transformed into a place where late-night strolls or afternoon outings – where not even the jeopardy of robbery or gang violence could be conspicuously suspected – evoke fear to the equivalent of such major felonies? In recent years, there has been an increased focus on specific incidents worldwide, highlighting the pressing need to address the underlying factors contributing to crimes that negatively impact public safety.
Gender discrimination, anti-religious sentiments, and hatred based on race all make up the plethora of other underlying factors leading to the execution of hate crimes. When it comes to the repercussions of criminal activities on individuals, the general public is not immune to the far-reaching effects of heinous crimes. Notably, the United States has witnessed a distressing surge in mass shootings, European and Middle Eastern nations grapple with the escalation of extremist ideologies resulting in both minor and major acts of terrorism. Brazil is facing an alarming spike in violent crimes against women, and South Africa is experiencing a rise in murders and assaults targeting women and children. These occurrences collectively contribute to growing concerns about the broader landscape of public safety, prompting a reassessment of societal attitudes. This underscores the pressing global imperative to address and fortify public safety measures.
Navigating through this complex landscape reveals that the idea of public security is no longer fixed; it is in a constant state of change. The aforementioned examples emphasize the need not just to handle the immediate consequences of crimes but to also examine societal norms that either allow or normalize violent acts. The stability of societies is contingent on crime rates and the root causes of such misconduct. The focus should not be placed on the instant mollification of crimes but on the sustainability of reformed safety measures along with the evaluation of society’s perception of hate crimes. Closure is to be illuminated only by asking the hard questions: What social predicaments do crimes as such indicate about the day and age of societies? Is the proclivity to dismiss hate crimes inevitably implied in the future? Ultimately, what is it that stored complacency among individuals who are at the forefront of orchestrating random acts of violence under the guise of “emotional expression”?
 Sugarman, D., Nation, M., Yuan, N., Kuperminc, G., Hassoun Ayoub, L., & Hamby, S. (2018). Hate and Violence: Addressing Discrimination Based on Race, Ethnicity, Religion, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity.
 Omar, P. (2023, July 15). “current year far from ordinary” as United States Records 30 mass killings with 29 involving guns in first half of 2023 ByPaurush. Hindustan Times.
 Temizer, S. (2023, March 10). Far-right terrorism growing threat in Europe, warns Eu commissioner. Anadolu Ajansı.
 Dettmer, J. (2023, November 3). As the Middle East strains, fears of extremism rise. POLITICO.
 Silva, C. (2023, November 13). Violence against women on the rise in Brazil. The Brazilian Report.
 Crime statistics - Devastating violence against children and women continues.
About the Author
Ms. Amy Suna Kim, Program Coordinator
Amy Suna Kim recently graduated with a master’s degree in International Studies from the Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University. Before this, Amy lived in the U.S., where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Religion at Cornell College. Amy is not new to Asia Society. Previously, she assisted our colleagues at Asia Society Philippines as a program management intern. Amy will be responsible for brainstorming new ideas for upcoming projects and raising the visibility of Asia Society Korea across various audiences. She is fluent in both English and Korean.
Ms. Amelia Joohyeong Cho, Policy & Business Research
Amelia Joohyeong Cho is an undergraduate at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies studying Political Science and Diplomacy, holding an extensive background in the field of international relations and journalism. With a growing interest in sociology and social activism, Amelia has long been a member of the United Nations Association of the ROK where she continues to channel her passion for writing and reporting. Amelia plans to pursue professional journalistic work in the near future.
Mr. Jason Sungjae Park, Policy & Business Research
Jason Sungjae Park is a 22-23 MSc candidate in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). From 2016 to 2022, Jason completed his Bachelor of Arts in African Studies and Political Science and Diplomacy at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Previously, he had experience in the assistance of writing Security and Conflicts reports - World War Watch (WoWW) - for the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis (KIDA) regarding African conflicts. As a junior researcher, Jason has shared his passion for examining current international affairs and security issues in terms of the Small Arms trade and development within foreign policy analysis.