(2nd LD) Gov’t to consider reviving conscripted police personnel system to tackle random crimes: PM

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said Wednesday the government will actively consider reinstating the system of allowing military conscripts to serve in the police force as part of measures to tackle heinous crimes targeting random people.

Han made the remark in a special statement in the wake of shocking crimes against random people, including last week's rape and murder of a woman on a hiking trail in broad daylight. The incident followed back-to-back stabbing sprees that left a total of two people dead and 16 others wounded.

"Crimes of this nature, targeting innocent citizens, are a grave concern that disrupts our society's fundamental values and order," Han said.

The government would review the possibility of reintroducing the system of conscripted police officers after first restructuring the existing police force, according to Han.

The system, originally established in 1982, allowed military draftees to choose to assist police officers, as able-bodied South Korean men are required to complete nearly two years of military service. However, the system was abolished in April.

National Police Agency Commissioner General Yoon Hee-keun said around 30,000 out of a total of 140,000 police officers can be assigned to patrol duties on the streets.

"Talks will be conducted with the defense ministry to recruit between 7,500 and 8,000 (conscripted police personnel)," Yoon said during a press briefing, adding that it would take around seven to eight months before the system is adopted.

Fear of random crime has grown as copycat crime threats have been posted online, prompting law enforcement to intensify street patrols and stop-and-search operations for individuals exhibiting suspicious behavior.

"The government is treating this situation with the utmost seriousness," Han said, noting the ongoing special patrols will continue until public anxiety is relieved.

The government is also contemplating legislation that would require life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for individuals convicted of these heinous crimes, Han said.

Han also said the government would provide support for victims of random crimes, including the establishment of a "one-stop" support facility that offers various forms of legal, financial and welfare assistance.

On Tuesday, the government and the ruling People Power Party reached an agreement to enhance support for victims, potentially including financial aid to cover all associated treatment costs.

Source: Yonhap News Agency