Man Strikes Burglar into Vegetative State, Faces Prison Term

Article from Yonhap News:

An illustration showing Choi striking the burglar with a drying rack

An illustration showing Choi striking the burglar with a drying rack.

Man Faces Prison Sentence For Striking Thief into Brain Death

We have our reporter on this case at the scene. Ji-hwan, give us a summary of what happened.


This incident happened just past 03:00 a.m. on March 8th, this year.

A twenty-year-old man, surname Choi, had just returned to his home out with his friend until the morning hours. His home is in Myeongryun-dong, Wonju City which is west of Seoul in Gangwon Province.

Then, Mr. Choi noticed a burglar rummaging through a drawer in the living room.

Choi’s grandmother and grandfather were in the house, and he was unsure if his mother was as well. He decided to take down the thief, who is in his 50’s. Choi then called the police.

The problems didn’t come until later. The thief, surname Kim, experienced brain death and went into a vegetative state.

During the fight in the living room, Choi hit the thief with an aluminum clothes drying rack. Police subsequently charged Choi with assault. The court sentenced him with 18 months imprisonment.

Choi has been behind bars in Chuncheon Prison for more than two months now.


Many people say Choi’s prison term is much too long. Why did the court find him guilty?


In first place, this incident was considered a simple theft. But as the story of the burglar’s brain death unfolded, the burglar became the victim, and the homeowner, Choi, became the defendant.

Choi hit Kim only to subdue him, knowing he was a burglar. This made it hard to charge Choi with manslaughter. Instead, an assault with a deadly weapon was brought against Choi, leading to the court ruling for assault rather than for burglary.

The court ruling stated that his reaction went beyond the scope of self defense, forming the basis for Choi’s sentencing. Although subduing a burglar who has broken into your home makes sense, knocking the person into a vegetative state is beyond the scope of self defense. The arrest made on ideological grounds leaves much room for dispute.

Judges in the court considered the fact that the homeowner Choi was a man in his 20’s, while the burglar, Kim, was an unarmed man in his 50’s.

What has been most hotly contested fact in the court ruling is the understanding of the drying rack as a dangerous object.

The drying rack in question is the kind of light drying rack that can be purchased at any local mart. Weather to regard the drying rack as a weapon is expected to remain a point of contention as the case goes to a second trial.


You met Choi’s family. They must be quite worried. How are they doing?

Choi’s family members feel [the ruling] was unfair .

Now in prison, Choi was a young man with no criminal record. After this incident, his grandfather passed away, and his grandmother, mother, and older sister now live together in his home.

Choi was supposed to enlist in the army this August, but the confrontation with the burglar resulted in him going to prison instead.

I have been to the home where the burglary occurred. Choi was provided with a state-appointed lawyer both during first ruling and in the lead up to a second court ruling. This indicates that he was not financially capable [of providing his own lawyer.]

Choi’s family is especially concerned about a possible civil suit calling for compensation, since Kim remains in the hospital unconscious, his medical bills growing.

Behind me you can see the criminal appellate building at the Chuncheon District Court. All eyes are on the appellate court’s verdict that is scheduled for release for in mid-November. Will the 20-something be sentenced for assault? Or will his actions be ruled as self-defense?

The prosecution in charge of this case issued a statement about why Mr. Choi's reaction was not recognized as self defense.

“The victim was of old age, in his 50’s. Choi continued to violently assault the burglar even after he was subdued.”

Article from Naver:


Even when my life is at risk, do they tell us to protect ourselves while still considering the thief’s safety?


The country’s just lost its mind, nothing is normal.


I think what he did can be justified. Set him free right away!


Should someone try breaking into to the judge’s house?


This country is so crazy.


If a war breaks out, will our soldiers even be able to shoot at North Korean soldiers because they might get hurt?


This is a country that protects criminals. Our nation is the laughing stock of the world, ke ke ke.


He was a first time offender and it was for self-defence. So getting sent to jail instead of getting a suspended sentence is just too much.


Thereby, the Great Era of Thieves has arrived.


Isn’t it right to punch the burglar? What would have happened if he had a knife [somewhere with him]?


It’s so absurd, there are no words, ke ke ke.


Korea really takes good care of criminals’ human rights. Regular people are just suckers.


Who told the guy to break in like that?


Throwing punches is the first response because I guess the thief must have jumped at him. How can people think of excessive reactions at a time like that? Punching and kicking should be the first reaction.

Comments from Daum:


That’s all right. Death is all right for thieves. If you’ve been burglarized, you know how scary it is, making you go nights without sleep. Those who never put a knife near their bed wouldn’t know how horrible it is. Human rights is luxury for thieves. Choi’s behavior was in self-defense!!


If you confront Sir Thief in your home, please kindly ask him whether he has any weapons. And if he says he has one, then you pick up an object to confront him. If he doesn’t have a weapon, just kindly escort the guy to the door, turning the lights for him and giving him some pocket money in case he might be hungry. If you don’t behave like this, you’ll get an earful from the judges in court.

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  • Xman2014

    He deserved to go to jail for excessive violence. The thief was already subdued, so he should have just waited for the cops instead of continuing to beat on him. I would understand if the thief was posing a danger and the accused was just defending himself. But it sounds like that’s not what happened.

    • AbC

      Is there another story you read in regards to this incident?
      This article only mentions that Choi hit the burglar with the drying rack in order to subdue him. Where does it say that Choi continuously beat him thereafter?
      I think I would agree with most of the comments. You don’t know whether or not a burglar has a weapon hidden. Using a drying rack should not be classified as ‘assault with a deadly weapon’ as per the original charge against Choi.
      Deadly weapon? Give me a break. Idiotic judge and prosecution team (not to mention incompetent state defence lawyer).

      • Chucky3176

        Look at the court’s script for the reason why he was convicted. The captured screen of the TV news that reported the court’s decision is shown above. It says, ““The victim was of old age, in his 50′s. Choi continued to violently assault the burglar even after he was subdued.”

        And the court script’s last key sentence says:

        “닥치는 대로 폭력 휘둘러”

        The beating was out of total control.

        He was a thief, but that does not mean he should be killed for it.

        • David

          50’s is not old age. I am in my 50’s and kick the ass of young guys in their 20’s when they get drunk and out of control (I know, that is hard to believe that some people get drunk and out of control in Asia). Sorry but to think a man in his 50’s is not a physical threat is crazy. Also, how do they know he kept beating the man when he was unconcious? They would only have Choi’s word for it and I doubt if he said this himself. It is simply the prosecution making this allegation, since Kim is unable to talk. Only in Korea give a woman who kills her child 3 years (not even going to talk about how little punishment rapists and pedophiles get) and a guy who beats a burglar 18 months. Crazy

    • Matt

      So what if you pause for 5 seconds to analyze whether the intruder has been “subdued” and he uses those 5 seconds to pull out a gun?

      • 금정산

        You wouldn’t need to wait 5 seconds, you would notice as soon as he moves his hands to reach for something. In this case, the court had decided that the intruder was already subdued. Nobody said the intruder appeared to be reaching for something inside his clothing.

        • Matt

          It only takes a split-second to reach for a weapon, or to lunge at you. Now add the fact that it was just past 3:00am and probably DARK.

          • 금정산

            If he was deemed subdued by the court then intruder wouldn’t be able to draw a weapon in a split second. If it was light enough to determine that it was an intruder and not Choi’s uncle sleepwalking on a surprise visit, it would be light enough to see him reach for something. And if you have your weapon ready to swing, you can hit faster than he can reach for something – let alone push himself up and aim towards you.

          • Matt

            “If it was light enough to determine that it was an intruder and not Choi’s uncle sleepwalking on a surprise visit, it would be light enough to see him reach for something.”

            This is not true. I could tell if a stranger were rummaging through my bedroom. It might be too dark to see whether they’re armed or recognize their face, but I could tell from their body outline, stature, body language, and/or their voice.

          • 금정산

            I didn’t say “whether they were armed”, but if they were reaching for something. Which comes from body outline, stature and body language. If you could tell these details from across the room, you can see whether some is reaching for something when they are up close.

          • Matt

            It’s completely possible that it was too dark to see if the intruder was reaching for something. And again, most people would have adrenaline pumping through their veins and not be remotely interested in respecting the rights of the intruder.

          • 금정산

            I don’t think its possible for there to enough light for situation A but not situation B. How can it? Perhaps if the fight was taken into another room, but we don’t have that as a detail.

          • Matt

            I’m currently in a semi-dark room. If some stranger walked up to my side, I would immediately know they’re a stranger who shouldn’t be in my house. But if I attack them and they end up on the ground, it would be too dark to have a clear understanding of their state. Nor would I be the SLIGHTEST BIT interested in affording them the luxury of proving their benign intentions after they’ve already proven themselves nefarious enough to have broken into my home.

          • 금정산

            That’s another scenario. If someone walked up to my side in broad daylight I would know they’re a stranger and invading my personal space. I wouldn’t need to look at them, I would know because they are so close.

            Before between scenario A and B I was talking about details. Details you can notice from afar and up close. From afar you need to sight someone and question whether they should be in the house or shouldn’t. If you live with your family and have been out till 3am, you don’t know unless you make a visual assessment. As you said, you would look at body outline and body language. This implies someone has the vision to make a reasonably detailed assessment. Up close, you will also need to make a similar assessment; and would be able to if you could determine from far such details as body outline and body language.

          • Barack Obama

            they are in your house…

    • Barack Obama

      it depends, the thief might have been a total prick and his insolence might have pissed the guy off so much that the guy had no choice but to give him a severe beating.

  • 금정산

    I disagree with most of the commenters because it was excessive force. There is no case of self defense because he wasn’t in danger; and he was putting himself at more risk if the first hit didn’t connect properly. He must have gone berserk to have inflicted so much damage with a clothes dryer.

    • David

      How can you say he was in no danger? A man had broken into his home while his grandparents where there.

      • 금정산

        I can’t say “no danger” because there is that possibility. I didn’t say “no danger”, I said he wasn’t “in danger” (with emphasis on “in”) and believe this to be the case.

        Unless the thief makes an advance towards him, threatens him or appears to reach for a weapon for an imminent attack, he isn’t “in danger” – a situation that warrants self-defensive action. If any of these details were revealed in the trial, the article would capitalise on them because it can play Choi as the victim.

        The man was a home intruder and a thief, but that doesn’t automatically mean he was violent and going to attack the residents. This distinction is important from a legal perspective. I think Choi would have been frightened by the intruder, but he was not in danger (judging from the details provided). Although there is that potential, it’s wrong to strike unless certain.

        • Dude

          So, instead it’s better to startle the thief, he then pulls a gun out, blows both your grandparents away before you can subdue him, but never mind you did what was right by law

          • 금정산

            Such a scenario is extremely rare in Korea. I doubt Choi would have even conceived such an idea because it’s unheard of. Maybe in dangerous cities of the world where guns are rampant, but not Korea. Put this into context and see whether Choi’s action were extreme for his situation.

            You can’t take “the worst possible scenario” and act upon that. You need to evaluate the scenario before you attack someone.

        • David

          I suppose we just have a totally different mind set. As far as I am concerned, if the man is in your home (where he is not supposed to be) you should kill him first and then ask him why. It will be a shorter conversation and you are sure to be safe. I think if a person fears he may be killed if he breaks into a home it would deter more people from doing that. Remember, until about 150 years ago, even in the most civilized countries, theft was a hanging offense (and still is in some places). So we will simply have to agree to disagree.

          • 금정산

            You know, after thinking about this more I’ve come to think that a person’s view on this matter can be largely affected by the safety of the neighbourhood they live in or grew up in. And how a person would react could be dependent on the perceived level of violence in a society.

  • Matt Proctor

    the judge is just an example of our greatest export, Liberalism, since most of the asian elites school in america it was only inevitable that there judiciary would become like ours, where rapists and murderers are set free .

    • Small twon

      I blame GTA !

    • bigmamat

      Really because now a lot of states have “stand your ground laws” which pretty much allow you to kill someone if you believe you are in danger of bodily harm. Some even allow for deadly force to protect property. The “liberal” laws you speak of were to prevent people from killing someone over silly things like a kid stealing change out of your car console. Changing these laws has done nothing more than lead to shooting deaths of unarmed citizens. If you’re black the odds go up even more.

      • Black_Plague

        Gee, maybe people shouldn’t be coming into others’ property with hostile intentions in the first place. That saves a lot of effort and lives on both sides.

        Sadly, there’s always going to be idiots who think it’s worth risking their lives doing stupidly dangerous things for petty gain. They don’t deserve sympathy for it, and it’s their loss and their loss only if they get caught.

        “deaths of unarmed citizens.”

        Being unarmed doesn’t automatically mean you’re not hostile or incapable of dealing serious physical damage. There’s plenty of folks out there who beat their partners/spouses with only their fists and still manage to hospitalize them, and in more tragic instances, leading to fatalities.

        If some random guy broke into my house at midnight but had no weapon with him, that doesn’t mean I can’t be allowed to use lethal force to subdue the threat he poses to my personal safety.

        • bigmamat

          Yeah, it does. At least in a civilized society it does but a lot of people like the idea of being able to kill someone with impunity.

          • Black_Plague

            “Yeah, it does” – Exactly what does?

            “but a lot of people like the idea of being able to kill someone with impunity.”

            Define ‘lot’ of people, because that’s pretty vague.

            I’m not particularly bothered by the thought of killing someone with impunity if they come across as threatening to myself, family or friends, but that doesn’t mean I *like* the idea of doing so – and I’m pretty sure most sane people would likely agree with that.

            If you’re trying to explain people who actually like the idea of killing others with impunity (and I’m assuming out of joy or some other disturbed reason), then you’re looking at people clearly with psychological issues who shouldn’t be anywhere close to any kind of weapon, whether it be a sword, firearm, axe, baseball bat, knife, club etc.

            Either that, or simply criminals who are going to break the law and put others in grave danger regardless if said law is one of liberal or conservative nature.

          • bigmamat

            I’m trying to explain about the gun nuts that live in my country. You know the guys that bring assault rifles to grocery shop at Kroger. Their story is about freedom but the freedom to do what? Intimidate the non gun loving populace? Send a message to someone who might one day sometime in the future threaten them? Is there some reason why we have to ensure the rights of people who are not willing to solve problems without violence? There is no reason to take a person’s life over property. There is no reason to use deadly force even when just enough force will do.

          • Black_Plague

            “I’m trying to explain about the gun nuts that live in my country. You know the guys that bring assault rifles to grocery shop at Kroger”

            I really don’t think you can blend in every gun nut into one category there. I’d describe myself as a huge lover of firearms and would be more than happy to buy several ARs, but no way in does carrying one in public make me a bad guy who wants to shoot or scare everyone I see.

            ” Intimidate the non gun loving populace?”

            I don’t see the issue so long as they’re not going around shooting anyone they see for laughs and giggles, or people who aren’t suited to carry any weapon in any circumstance (like people with a criminal background, gang affiliation, mental issues, lack of training etc.)

            Quite a number of the people that have a fear or dislike of guns tend to forget that it’s not the gun that kills, but the user that does. And the same goes for basically ANYTHING that’s a weapon. It’s not rocket science. Nothing complex about it.

            “There is no reason to take a person’s life over property. There is no reason to use deadly force even when just enough force will do.”

            In an ideal world, yes. But in reality? Not in a million years.

            If you had a bunch of fuckwits breaking into your home in the middle of the night planning to steal your belongings or kidnap you or your loved ones, you’re not going to achieve anything by trying to negotiate with them.

            Especially if they happen to be either armed. under influence of drugs or alcohol or even many sizes bulkier – or even worse, a combination of all of them, And it’s not like the police can arrive to help in a moment’s notice.

          • bigmamat

            In the real world people kill each other all the time for little of nothing and attempt to justify it. People kill others out of fear when the threat is often not even clear. So don’t try to justify violent behavior with hypothetical situations because that is exactly how innocent, unarmed people do get killed. People shouldn’t be allowed to kill people based on their fear or even their willingness to defend themselves against a potential threat. The threat needs to be actual, real, not “felt” or perceived. We are blurring the line between what is acceptable for a society that values human life. It’s bad enough we already allow our governments to get away with such behavior. If we allow ourselves to devolve even further toward each other then there is no need for social order at all. I’m am sorry I am not an advocate of more potential violence but less.

          • Black_Plague

            You’ve completely ignored all my arguments above, and now you’re bringing up universal morality? Fine with me.

            “In the real world people kill each other all the time for little of nothing and attempt to justify it.”

            And in the real world, people kill one another to protect their own lives, their loved ones or simply for what is right (like the Dutch and German bikers who flew over to fight alongside the Peshmerga against ISIS).

            “People shouldn’t be allowed to kill people based on their fear or even their willingness to defend themselves against a potential threat.”

            Try telling that to the Kurds, Shi’a and Yezidi Iraqis and Syrian Alawites, Christians and Druzes, all whom are pretty much fighting for their own existence against Sunni terrorists like Al-Nusra and ISIS etc. Or the Egyptians against the fanatics of the Muslim Brotherhood.

            Or even to this man for the matter;

            I really doubt you’d be saying that if YOU were in any situation similar to one I’ve described in my above post. Because such cases actually do happen in real life, and it’s always better to be prepared for worse case scenarios than not.

            “The threat needs to be actual, real, not “felt” or perceived.”

            Only in theory. In real life, that’s when things get a little bit blurry.

            “We are blurring the line between what is acceptable for a society that values human life”

            Humans, regardless of ethnicity or nationality, were doing much more heinous things on a far larger scale in previous decades, some on an industrial/systematic level such as the Holocaust, forced removal of Native Americans, the Crusades, the Aztec human sacrifices, Armenian Genocide and the list goes on and on.

            And you think we’re only blurring the line as a whole *now*? That’s just being naive.

            “I’m am sorry I am not an advocate of more potential violence but less.”

            Where the hell does it even say or even imply that I advocate *more* potential violence? All I’m for is one’s right to defend themselves, loved ones and property, with lethal force if necessary. It’s not that complicated.

          • bigmamat

            I don’t know about morality. I equate morality with religious values which I don’t have. You imply that I’ve never been in a situation that is potentially harmful, something you couldn’t possibly know. Your fear of terrorism which you’ve mentioned and unknown threats is the very reason allowing people free reign to “defend” themselves is dangerous to civil order. Because you see I have been in dangerous situations, actual situations that caused me bodily harm but the threat was never from some random terrorist or unknown stranger. It was always from the people closest to me. People I lived with, people I knew on intimate terms. You claim that violence in society is less prevalent than in previous times yet at the same time defend the need for lethal protection of your property and person. I think it is complicated. I think you do not see that while the world is a far less dangerous place than our ancestors experienced, and even in previous decades, you still insist that people require the ability to defend themselves with lethal force if necessary. That has been my question all along, “is lethal force necessary”. Should it extend to ones property along with their person and family. I say no. A person’s life should always be considered more valuable than property. I also say that a person should not be allowed to kill or even injure someone based on their fear or perceptions alone. It’s much more complicated and it’s exactly why these issues should be codified very clearly by law.

          • Black_Plague

            “Your fear of terrorism which you’ve mentioned and unknown threats is the very reason allowing people free reign to “defend” themselves is dangerous to civil order.”

            Where does it say or even imply that I have a fear of terrorism and use it as justification to defend myself with lethal force when deemed necessary? You’re just stretching the mark there now.

            I don’t have worries of some religious fanatics beheading me in the middle of a desert for being non-Muslim, but the same can’t be said to others in different parts of the world where self-defense through lethal force is absolutely necessary in certain cases – in the case of ones I mentioned above, when you got genocidal religious thugs roaming around the streets armed with AKs, RPGs and Dshks, or people protesting for their cause in the streets.

            “You claim that violence in society is less prevalent than in previous times yet at the same time defend the need for lethal protection of your property and person.”

            That part of my argument was in response to YOUR claim that humans today are only now blurring between what’s acceptable and what’s not.

            Even so, society being less violent doesn’t justify being more laxed in terms of self-defense or defending others, including lethal methods. That kind of thinking is exactly what led to US troops being unable to stem the North Korean advance prior the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter.

            You’re basically implying that being less violent means society overall will become less violent. The world and reality doesn’t work that way, and is little more than a pipdream of idealists, and at worst is just delusion.

            “A person’s life should always be considered more valuable than property. I also say that a person should not be allowed to kill or even injure someone based on their fear or perceptions alone”

            Not if said person is intending to commit a crime. Especially if they’re armed or are willing to kill innocent people for very petty gain.

            I’ve provided you a link backing my argument, and yet you’re still parroting the same thing all over again. So if there was a bunch of idiots with Molotov cocktails or any other kind of incendiary devices right in my lawn, have knives in their belts and screaming hostile intents, I should try ‘reasoning’ with them first >__> That *really* sounds smart and safe, doesn’t it? Fuck no.

            In an actual hostile situation, I really doubt one will be able to figure it out like that in the blink of an eye – especially when neutralizing said hostile threat is one that has to be dealt first before the latter does anything potentially dangerous.

          • bigmamat
          • Black_Plague

            Not valid enough. Ruth Bettelheim isn’t a police officer, criminology expert or even specialized in matters related to self-defense for that matter.

            The fact she even used Michael Brown as an example for her argument is also ludicrous, considering Brown himself was a violent criminal that committed robbery on the day he was shot AND also attacked the police officer present at the scene.

          • bigmamat

            I’m not going to debate with you about Michael Brown. I come to Korean sites to get away from the problems and politics of my own country. I linked the article because I saw it this morning and it addressed the point I was trying to make about people’s judgement being not completely rational during times of stress or when quick decisions are necessary. I realize the author is not an expert, it’s an editorial. However, the topic she is discussing and the research she mentions is not new. Whether you choose to research further is up to you. I can’t undo what’s already been done to you. You’ll have to decide for yourself if you want a world that makes any excuse it can for more violence. Personally, I think you need to get laid.

          • Black_Plague

            “I come to Korean sites to get away from the problems and politics of my own country.”

            You were the one that brought up your country’s problems first, by referring to the ‘gun nuts’ in YOUR country. And only now you claim something like that? IIRC, at one point in one of our past discussions, you mentioned you came to Korean sites simply because you were interested in what things are like in Korea. Who knows, maybe I’m wrong.

            “author is not an expert, it’s an editorial”

            There’s the problem. Hence why I said valid enough.

            “I can’t undo what’s already been done to you”

            The feeling is mutual.

            ” if you want a world that makes any excuse it can for more violence.”

            And I think you’ll have to decide whether if you think making the world a less violent place will naturally make people as a whole less violent too. Because as far as I’m concerned, there will always be killing somewhere no matter how many ‘progressive’ laws are made by the government because in the end of the day, criminals do stupid things and risk their own lives to death, and the best thing to do is to neutralize said the threat they pose as fast and efficiently as possible.

            Nowhere does it say or imply that I think lethal methods 100% *have* to be the first step taken in taking a threat down in every single situation.

          • If the law in their city or state allows them to carry open carry firearms then they have the right to carry them openly in the public. It’s you DIRTY AND DISGUSTING LIBERALS that think open or closed carry is a bad thing. Guess what? How about you stop being a dirty liberal and be a REAL AMERICAN??? Liberals have long destroyed American values and this has got to stop.

            >Send a message to someone who might one day sometime in the future threaten them?
            Those who open carry are those who went through rigorous documents and what not to get their open carry permit and gun permits. They are LAW ABIDING CITIZENS. Why should law abiding citizens be punished for keeping the peace?

          • bigmamat

            I don’t know about your state but mine doesn’t have a very “rigorous” documentation process for allowing open carry. Concealed carry I believe entails a bit more paperwork. I won’t debate you about the dirty liberal tag. Actually I have no desire to debate you at all. I will say that all “real Americans” are liberals whether they call themselves liberal or not. Democracy is a “liberal” form of government so by definition all “real Americans” are liberal.

  • Guest

    If someone broke into my home, I should have the right to kill them, UNLESS they are running away from me.

  • Jake the Expat

    3am, probably dark. You come home and find a criminal rummaging through your home. You cannot see whether he is armed or not, because it is probably dark, but seeing as the man is a criminal, and criminals often use tools in the commission of their crimes (crow bars, screw drivers, prying tools), you assume that he may be armed. As you (law abiding citizen) are not armed and do not make a habit of carrying weapons, you grab what is nearest to you in order to defend yourself. The fact that the thief does not immediately bolt for the door, or out a window, or somewhere else indicates that he probably does not perceive you to be a physical threat to himself, and feels that he can likely overpower you.

    He lunges at your, it’s dark, you hit him what whatever you can grab. Your elderly grandparents are in the house, has this man already killed them? You don’t have time to check. Would he attempt to to harm them or possibly take them hostage? You don’t know. Your adrenaline is pulsing and you hit him a few times over the head with an aluminum clothes rack. This is not a heavy item, like a bat or piece of solid wood. It is a flimsy item. The burglar goes down and in the heat of the moment, you hit him again. This person has entered your private domain with the intent to commit a crime. Is he a rapist? Is he a murderer? You didn’t have time to interview him because, well, he lunged at you as soon as you caught him by surprise.

    This guy should not pay a single Korean won to the burglar or his family members, who will no doubt smell a cash-grab and try to further victimize the robbery victims by demanding compensation. Instead of receiving a prison sentence, he should receive an award from city officials. Korea’s self-defense codes provide that you can only defend yourself with equal force to that of the criminal assaulting you. So, if you are a woman, and a man is attacking you with his fists, anything more than you punching him back can actually result in criminal charges against you, the victim.

    Does a burglar ‘deserve’ death? No, of course not. But Korean law is unreasonable in thinking that victims of crime will be able to calmly and rationally deal with situations in which they are in immediate danger. Korean law seems to specifically discourage victims of violent crime from trying to get the upper hand while they are being assaulted. How in particular does this benefit society? I hope the Korean government stops wasting my tax money keeping the burglar on life support. I’d personally like to pull the plug from the wall. As nearly all of the Korean commentators said, and I think they might know a thing or two about hos their country is run; Korea really does protect criminals at the expense of victims in many cases. The stone-age libel laws, for example, discourage women from speaking out about being raped, lest they be sued by the rapist, etc.

    • 금정산

      |He lunges at your, it’s dark, you hit him what whatever you can grab|

      Where does it say this? My understanding is that Choi attacked first. This distinction is very important from the legal perspective.

      • Matt

        If I see an intruder in my house, especially at night, I’m not waiting for him to make the first move. His first move could be my last.

        • 금정산

          Sounds simple, but you could be making a grave mistake. You don’t know if he has a knife; and if he does, it doesn’t matter if you make the first move, you would probably lose.

          If you were really worried about safety, you would remove yourself from the situation, not put yourself in danger. Don’t try to be a hero unless you know your enemy.

          • Matt

            That’s why you beat him unconscious before he has the chance to do anything. It’s not about being a “hero”; it’s about protecting your life. You think that once a criminal knows you’ve seen him, he’ll let you just wander off to report him to the police? There’s a good chance he’ll try to attack you and potentially get carried away and kill you. Especially when there are other loved ones in your home, you don’t take chances.

            “I’d rather be judged by 12, than carried by 6.”

          • 금정산

            You’re under the assumption that the resident would win the fight, which can be a costly assumption. If you really want to protect your life you would try to defuse the situation or escape. I think he was taking a bigger risk and putting himself in more danger by starting the fight. If the intruder had seen you, there is the chance that he would attack you, for sure. But the article didn’t say this nor that an attack upon Choi was imminent. I think these details would have been revealed if it were true.

          • Matt

            We have an instinctive fight or flight response that will kick in before we even understand the situation. You can debate whether he should have fought or fled, but such a decision was likely made in a matter of milliseconds and could possibly have even been unconscious.

            The truth is, you don’t know how you’d respond in that sort of scenario. But if your instinct to fight ends up being triggered, you’d better fight your hardest so that you don’t lose the fight you’ve already started.

          • 금정산

            The fight or flight response is more about the physiological reaction in nervous systems. It isn’t an instinct to fight, it is a reaction to respond with urgency. The decision to fight or flight comes after this physiological reaction and is determined by perceived body language, intentions and understanding the strength of your position compared to your opponent’s.

          • Matt

            Here’s what I know: Many, if not most people, if confronted by an intruder in their home, would immediately freak out and make a rash decision without engaging in any of the premeditation you’re describing. The truth is, you have no idea how you’d respond. After all of this armchair intellectualizing on Disqus, it’s possible that tonight you could go home and come face to face with an intruder and instinctively start hitting him with whatever tool you have at your disposal.

          • 금정산

            It isn’t premeditation, body language is interpreted instantly and subconsciously. I would never beat someone when they are down and no longer a threat.

          • Matt

            “and no longer a threat.”

            This is a presumption. Of course, most reasonable people would no longer attack something that is no longer a threat. But your assumed knowledge of something no longer being a threat is a fictitious luxury seldom enjoyed in the real world. If someone’s enough of a threat to break into my home, I’m not giving them a second’s pause to observe whether they reach for a weapon or take a lunge at me.

          • 금정산

            I’m basing this on the judgement that he was subdued. I’m happy to presume. The court which hears the evidence has a better judgement than your understanding or my understanding of this case from KoreaBANG. It would be arrogant to think otherwise.

          • Matt

            Courts can be and are misled all the time. Moreover, just because a court finds the intruder was subdued doesn’t mean this was obvious or apparent to the resident at the time. It’s easy to judge in retrospect when all the dust has settled, but in the heat of the moment, such matters are not so instantaneously evident.

          • 금정산

            The courts are not mislead “all the time”. Now days it is very rare for a court to make the wrong verdict, especially in Korea where the judge has greater powers. I’m saying the courts have more information that we do. The issue of whether it is was apparent to Choi that the intruder was subdued would have definitely been questioned by the count and taken into account by the judges sentencing. You are arrogant if you think you know better than the information
            revealed in court over this issue.

            If the resident wasn’t sure if the intruder was subdued, why did he continue to strike with such force to cause brain damage? Because it wasn’t obvious or apparent? That’s exactly why he shouldn’t keep attacking.

          • Matt

            Now days it is very rare for a court to make the wrong verdict

            How do you know?

            You are arrogant if you think you know better than the information revealed in court over this issue.

            Tell that to these people:

            Susan Marie Mellen
            Woman exonerated, freed after 17 years in prison

            David McCallum
            New York man wrongfully convicted of murder freed after 29 years in prison

            Exonerated and Set Free After 29 Years

            Glenn Ford
            Louisiana’s longest-serving death row prisoner walks free after 30 years

            Ryan Ferguson
            Freed After Spending Almost A Decade In Prison On Murder Conviction

            Victor Nealon
            Freed after 17 years in jail

            Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown
            A Victory over Justice System’s Failure: Wrongly Convicted Brothers Freed After 31 Years in Prison

            US men found innocent after 30 years in jail

            Patrick Waller
            Dallas Man Freed by DNA after 15 Years in Prison

            Rodell Sanders
            Man wrongly accused of murder freed after 20 years in prison

            Man freed after acquitted in retrial for a murder for which he spent 20 years in prison

            It is arrogant to think the court system cannot make mistakes and is beyond criticism.

          • 금정산

            That’s great Matt, but I hope it didn’t take you too long to find those references to support your argument because I said “Now days it is very rare for a court to make the wrong verdict”. Considering the number of trials throughout the past 50 years, you would need to find many more to convince anyone that the wrong verdict is rare.

            Moreover you said “courts are mislead all the time”. So do you want to refer to all assault cases in your state over the past 20 years and show me how the court was mislead?

            I’m not at all saying the courts are free from mistakes (hence I said “very rare”), but I’m saying they have more evidence than we do from this article, so it is arrogant not to accept that verdict as it stands as greater than your own belief. I think your eight friends would agree with me on this.

          • Matt

            I said “Now days it is very rare for a court to make the wrong verdict”.

            And again, I ask you: How do you know? Has it not occurred to you that there is no way to know whether a court reached the wrong verdict, unless there happened to be a retrial?

            You have too much faith in the court system. You assume that the judge and jury will be fair and impartial, transcending the innate human flaws that pervasively characterize humanity outside the courtroom. I am trying to tell you that those flaws follow them into the courtroom. It’s true that they have more evidence, but it’s also true that they’ve been influenced by the persuasive narratives of overzealous prosecutors. Most people are not very intelligent, and even judges have incentives to be “tough” on crime and maintain a “strong” record.

          • 금정산

            I’m stating my belief based on hearing that very few retrials for serious offenses are successful and the fact that people and courts tend to give the benefit of the doubt when there is uncertainty. I think the examples you provide back me up on this rarity.

            You are building a strawman argument and saying that I have too much faith etc. No comment.

            It is funny that you mention overzealous prosecutors when you yourself bear remarkable resemblance to one.

          • Ava Banks

            Geumjeongsan is seriously delusional!

          • SayWhat

            The fact that you opened your comment with “Sounds simple..” is obvious you have not been put in that predicament. I have, and Matt is absolutely correct.. burglars don’t break into homes to play ring-around-the-roses.. they mean business! That’s the reason they broke in, in the first place! duh! Like Matt said you don’t know what you’re dealing with, what to expect.. your heart is beating and the adrenaline is going and it’s fight or flight time. We all were created with this mechanism. It’s unfortunate that the man is in a vegetative state.. but it’s his just rewards for violating a persons private property which is against the law.

            Korean citizens need to send around a petition to let that man free. They’ve done him a great disservice! : (

        • Daniel

          First of all Matt. You apply your logic because you are from the states. I bet that in Korea poeple dont get killed by burglars on daily basis. Especially since the South Korea has one of the most restricted gun policies in the world.

          • Matt

            A burglar with a knife is still a dangerous threat.

    • Daniel

      My name is Kim, I am 50+ year old with mental issues that´s making me lose my memory every so often. Many times I find myself naked on the street or dirty and wet on the field eating corn without even knowing how I got there.
      Last night I came home and I wanted to change to my favorite pyjamas but couldnt find it.
      I looked through all cabinets and drawers but just couldnt find it. I didnt know how all these strange clothes ended up in my apartment. Suddenly a guy comes in with angry look on his face. I get scared and try to go away but he hits me in the back of my head and since then I have this dream…
      Could have happend like that too, right? ;)

      • 금정산

        I thought Kim was possibly a drunkard. He could be a sleep walking neighbour. Or perhaps Choi’s mum knowing that Choi would be out with his friends and returning home in the early hours, as usual, called over the landlord (who she knows intimately) to fix an urgently broken pipe earlier that night.

      • Barack Obama

        no it’s very clear that this man was a burglar. If he had Alzheimer’s they would have pointed it out. And although burglars do not necessarily deserve to die, it is ridiculous to punish the victim of the burglary for protecting his property. ke ke ke.

        • 금정산

          Yes, Barry, we know this now but did Choi determine who the man was before he rushed him?

          • Barack Obama

            does it matter? He might have not known for sure but there were certainly actions and subtleties at the time that made the man feel threatened enough to attack. If you go by your logic then we have to assume that nobody knows anything at anytime ever.

          • 금정산

            You’re speculating. And no, by my logic you need to make an assessment before rushing someone.

        • Daniel

          I still dont think that anyone deserve to die because someone is protecting their property.

      • Jake the Expat

        Sure it could have happened this way, if and only if the front door were left unlocked. I wonder how many Koreans make a habit of leaving their front doors unlocked or open? It’s not unheard of, but as many Koreans seem weary or untrusting of their neighbors, especially in big cities, I’m going to guess that most Koreans don’t leave their doors unlocked while sleeping.

        In that case, our 50 year old mental patient would need to be carrying burglary tools to gain entry. My guess is that the robber’s family will say whatever they can to squeeze as much money out of the original victims as possible, and that we will all be asked to “please understand” the robbers “situation”

        As the Korean commentators on the original story said; we can’t really be expected to interview criminals while they are victimizing us. “Excuse sir, are you just going to beat me, or are you going to rape me later?” or “Sir, what is your purpose in assaulting me? Do you intend to kill me, or just beat me for a bit? I need to know so that I I may fight back with the proper force.” Utter nonsense.

        Did Choi attack first? It would seem that way from the article. I do not believe Korean law is clear enough on which situations one is permitted to take preemptive action. For example, if someone is pointing a gun at you, do you actually have to wait for them to shoot in order to establish their intention and try to wrestle the gun away from them?

        (1) It was night time, 3am.
        (2) Vulnerable, defenseless family members were home at the time, seniors I assume in their 70s or 80s.
        (3) I don’t believe it was attempted murder, because the weapon used was a flimsy clothes rack made of aluminum. If he wanted to murder the guy, he could have gone to the kitchen, grabbed a knife and finished the job.
        (4) The criminal was injured during the commission of the crime, which doesn’t actually matter in Korea, but on a personal level, I can see why Koreans do not feel pity for him, especially considering that he was victimizing two elderly people, one of whom died not long after.

        This case illustrates a huge gap and need for improvement in Korea’s self defense laws.

  • Black_Plague

    Unbelievable. The thief doesn’t deserve any sympathy. Play stupid games, you win stupid prizes. It can’t get any simpler than that.

  • JEng

    Choi’s family members feel [the ruling] was unfair .

    wow that’s selfish – there is a duty to retreat – a few months ago, a nonChinese neighbor in Chinatown was faced with a gun by the apartment resident whose fire escape he was on – the cops came

    this reaction is not very kdrama

    • Matt

      Duty to retreat? The dude was in his own home! How would he know whether turning his back to “retreat” wouldn’t result in a bullet in his back?

      • 금정산

        How would he know whether instigating a fight wouldn’t result in a bullet to his chest?

        • Matt

          That’s why once you do make a move, you don’t stop just because the intruder seems like he might be “subdued”.

          • 금정산

            How do you put text in italics?

            The key reason he was convicted is because he continued attacking after the intruder was subdued. And I think that’s a fair conviction because it was unwarranted and excessive force.

          • Matt

            Type your text here.

            ^ Remove the dot right before the slash at the end.

            How does the court know the intruder was subdued? More importantly, how obvious was it to the resident that the intruder was subdued? Was the intruder subdued within seconds? Minutes? Was there a bedroom light on or was the resident striking at the intruder in the dark?

          • 금정산

            These details are revealed in the court and decided by the judge.

            Doesn’t seem to work.

  • He’ll appeal and once the story fades away he’ll be approved and be out on the streets in a week

  • goldengluvsk2

    remember kids! if youre in SK and find a stranger in your house in the middle of the night, you first ask them how old they are, if they are going to hurt you and if they have a weapon… if theyre older or younger than you, let them hit/kill you and give them all you have because we all know people who break into other people’s house are saints…
    This is how you mess up a young life… he had no criminal records but because some loser decided he would steal his family’s belonging now he’s in prison… I bet the thief’s fmily would even want to be compensated… I hope they release him soon

    • 금정산

      He messed up his own life by hitting the intruder after he was subdued.

      • So what? Still self defense. End of discussion.

        • 금정산

          So what? He was sentenced to 18 months….

          Why didn’t the court decide this was self defense?

          • Koreans, Koreans, Koreans. Always so naive. That’s why your country was bullied so many times by the superior Japanese forces. So you’re just going to allow an intruder come to your house and you’re not going to do anything about it? Koreans are so naive!!

          • 금정산

            You’re obviously quite young and are trying to incite hatred but it’s misdirected.

            I agree that Korea was dominated throughout history by its superior neighbours. But I also admire Korea for being able to survive between China and Japan.

            I have little respect for Japan because it shamelessly misused its power and made some serious errors. Think of how great Japan would be if she had taken are moderate approach to colonialism and militarism.

  • waygookinhanguk

    The Korean judicial system is not necessarily to blame as these types of things happen in nations with different judicial systems too, but the perception of the state and police being soft on crime only makes these types of citizen justice more likely. Who the heck in their right mind has trust in the police here, when they see police cars parked at junctions, several drivers going through on red, forcing pedestrians to stop or jump out the way, and the police ignore it? Not to mention the Suwon murder case a couple of years ago.

    We had a case in the UK at the end of 2009. 3 burglars, one of them armed with a knife, ordered the family on the floor and tied them up. One managed to escape, alert his younger brother at a nearby house and they chased and severely beat one of the burglars, leaving him with a fractured skull and brain damage There were a lot of crossed words in the dorms where I lived at the time because on the one hand it wasn’t self defence, arguably excessive in that context. On the other hand, the burglar had approximately *50* previous convictions. The judge, in sentencing, had the gall to talk about protecting the rule of law and didn’t even mention the failure of the state to enforce the rule of law by jailing the burglar before he troubled the family in question.

    Vigilantes can’t be completely eliminated but trust in the judicial system goes a long way. The UK doesn’t see too many cases of rapists having their genitalia cut off by members of the public, as sentencing is quite strong for that crime. India, however….

    • commander

      Wow, did the burglar who was badly beaten appeal the court verdict?

      • waygookinhanguk

        Not that I know of. Although to be clear, it was a member of the family that was victim to the crime that was jailed. I’m sorry, my final sentence in the second paragraph was unclear. The judge omitted to mention that the state could have enforced the rule of law by jailing the burglar after any one of his previous 50 or so offences. A first offence I could probably stomach for a minor crime but 50 was just ridiculous. For me, the judge drawing attention to that was the very least he could have done. The British judicial system neglected to enforce the rule of law concerning the burglar but jailed a man who, although he used excessive force, probably wouldn’t have committed a crime if not for the burglars invading his family’s home. And with every story like that, public respect for the judicial system is eroded that little bit more and vigilante justice becomes increasingly considered and accepted as a legitimate option.

        • commander

          My understanding is that criminal law in UK, and S. Korea doesn’t allow a person to stage assault after the person know that he or her life is out of a life-threatening situation.

          Violence out of proportion to protecting oneself is not recognized as self defense, though it is hard to figure out in a tense confrontation with an intruder in a break-in that I am no longer threatened by the criminal.

          • waygookinhanguk

            You are correct, that’s why the family member was jailed. It provoked a debate, because they had no previous convictions while the burglar had escaped jail after each of his 50 or so. In fairness, rights of homeowners to defend themselves *inside* their home have been improved in the last few years. Beating a burglar into a vegetative state while he was on the floor though, according to the court proceedings, still isn’t lawful in the UK.

      • waygookinhanguk

        The burglar escaped a prison sentence. He was given a non custodial sentence instead and was not in a condition to enter a plea. There is space for an argument that imprisoning him earlier may have averted him incurring brain damage if the prison system could have reformed him, but it wasn’t even tried.

  • commander

    After the controversy whether Mr. Choi acted in self defense while subduing the intruder with an aluminum drying rack at his home has become heated, with sneer and jeer at the court ruling of the first instance finding the 20-something man guilty of assault, the prosecution, who brought him to the tribunal, issued a statement in an unusual move.

    Prosecutors said in a statement that Mr. Choi continued to violently assault the burglary even after he collapsed with hard beating and lay down on the floor powerless.

    They view the self defense needs to be recognized with greatly strict interpretation as a wider interpretation of self defense is feared to stoke violence in a standoff, bringing out an increase in assaults or even murders.

    Wide media coverage is made while the appellate court verdict is due for after mid-November. It’s interesting to closely follow any reversal of the lower court’s guilty ruling possibly because charged public criticism for too narrowly construing the scope of self defense.

    I’ll deal with the upcoming verdict by the higher court, and I hope visitors will also wait for it. :)

  • x1sfg


  • Barack Obama

    I believe to completely make a righteous judgement of the whole situation you would have to determine if the burglar is a good person or not, and to do that you’d have to really get to know the guy and the history of his whole life, and based on that you can fully assess whether the burglar deserved the beating or not. Maybe the burglar is a big enough of an asshole that he might as well be dead. Obviously it’s impossible for the victim of the burglar to do this, so you only take the situation at face value and absolve him of any blame. Or maybe the real problem is that his sentence is too long. Would it be better if he was sentenced to 6 months instead of 18 months? Maybe. Nothing is black and white.

    • Take One

      This is Korea we’re talking about, not America or Brazil. Same Korea where most burglars are non-violent. If they get caught, they’ll profusely apologize, beg to be forgiven, and not to call the cops. Then they’ll try to sneak back out the door, leaving all the stolen goods behind and promising never to do it again. I can understand that in America where violence is an every day natural occurrence, this type of thinking that burglars are violent is so firmly entrenched… but in Korea? It’s not the same, so don’t look at this through the American prism. In Korea, rarely do cops need to shoot their guns. In all of the last ten years, there have been exactly zero shooting incidents nationally, involving a police officer. Even violent criminals in Korea are much more gentler than American violent criminals.

      • Barack Obama

        I did not know this about Korea but if this were true then the outrage of the court against this man makes more sense. However, I’m not going to blame the home-owner for not taking into account that burglars in Korean are just gentle and misunderstood beings that fell into bad times.

        • Xman2014

          “In all of the last ten years, there have been exactly zero shooting incidents nationally, involving a police officer”

          Wrong. There was one gun shoot out when a Korean policeman shot at a suspect who tried to back his car onto the police, trying to pin him to a wall. This happened couple of years ago. The suspect driver was shot and wounded. Although, that was an off duty American GI resisting arrest.

  • Sid Driver

    Drying racks* now on sale at all your favorite local shopping malls! Good for drying clothes and producing vegetables!

    *Please ensure that you have your ID when purchasing to show your proof of age.

  • Xio Gen

    Only 18 months? That sounds about right for manslaughter. Man, an equivalent sentence in America would be like 20 years. And he has the third most common name. He’s lucky.

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