Family of Man Killed by Spitting Student Struggle to Survive

family of the victim is struggling to maintain their livelihood

Three months ago, a man who tried to criticise a student for spitting on the street was killed, following a fight with that student. However, the court did not punish the student, nor did the student’s family pay any compensation to the victim’s family, who are now living in poverty. Netizens have reacted strongly to the court’s soft treatment of the criminal and sympathised with the victim’s family.

From Newsis:

Father beaten to death while reprimanding high school students, family of five left with no support

In Suwon, Gyeonggi-do, a man in his thirties was beaten to death by high school students after scolding them for spitting on the street. His surviving family is now faced with twice the pain due to extreme difficulties in maintaining their livelihood.

Around 00:20 on July 21st, Kim (aged 39) returned home from dinner with his work colleagues. It was late, but he headed out again with his wife Yoo (aged 32) and his youngest son (aged 5) because his son pestered him to get him a toy.

At a convenience store near his house, he found that he was 4000 won short to buy a toy car that his son wanted, and sent his wife to bring more money. The incident occurred at this point; he saw high school students spitting on the street in front of the store, and told them to stop it. When they ignored him, he grabbed a student by the collar.

The student’s friend, Kim (aged 16), protested strongly against the act. A passer-by, Shin (aged 20), took part in the quarrel which developed into a fight. During this fight, the father was knocked to the ground by the student’s kick, hitting his head on the ground.

All of this happened within the mere 5~6 minutes until his wife returned. His youngest son was watching everything from a nearby spot. The father went through a major 8 hour long operation but died around 4:30 PM on July 27th.

Three months have passed since his death, but the surviving family is suffering from increasing pain.

The deceased Kim was a reliable breadwinner of the family that included his old mother who cannot move around well, his wife Yoo and three sons aged 12, 9 and 5. Despite the poverty, he earned a living by working in a car wash.

Kim worked very hard, doing all sorts of work ranging from speed dispatch and plastic moulding in a factory, to car washing. He was a diligent husband and father who never told his family how hard his work was and volunteered for neighbourhood patrol for over 15 years.

His wife used to work with car parts to earn money but has stopped working as the children started showing extreme anxiety since their father’s death.

The student’s family visited the hospital every day during the late Kim’s stay there after the incident. They persuaded her that they will be responsible for all the hospital bills and funeral expenses, even if they had to take out a loan to cover them, telling her ‘the survivors should go on living.’ Trusting them, Yoo told the police she did not want any punishment [against the student].

But her confession led to yet more pain. The court of justice cancelled the warrant issued to the student for bodily injury resulting in death, and the student’s family promptly severed contact.

Later the public prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for the student, considering that there was not even an agreement on hospital bills between the student’s family and the late Kim’s family. However, the court cancelled this warrant as well, because ‘the victim partly provoked the violence.’

Yoo said the pain of losing her husband was devastating enough, but she struggled to cope with the funeral expenses since they were so poor. ‘I am regretting that I returned home alone that day from the store and I said to the police that I don’t want any punishment,’ she added.

She is supporting the remaining family of her ill mother-in-law and her three sons in a damp, mouldy semi-basement house that leaks rain. There are three bedrooms in the house but they have never slept in the bedrooms because they are covered in mould so the family of five sleep on a slab of polystyrene in the living room instead. Even the living room is cold because the gas supply was cut off three years ago when they could not pay the bills.

‘The youngest son, who witnessed the entire incident, bursts into tears in fear when he sees an older boy and trembles with fear at an ambulance saying somebody must be dead,’ Yoo said. She felt bitter about the student’s family, who did not even pay a visit to the funeral, even though her family was completely ruined [by the incident].

The old mother of the deceased said he was a kind and generous person. ‘I still cannot believe his death. I feel that he might as well come through that door,’ she said, tearfully. She also felt sorry for her daughter-in-law, who she said ‘married a poor guy at a young age and suffered so much.’

The incident was terminated by the prosecutors charging without detention the student Kim and passer-by Shin on 29th, but the pain felt by the victim’s family carries on.

Comments from Nate:


ke ke ke ke ke ke the victim partly provoked the violence? Did the judge who said this partly provoke violence, so the victim’s family beat the judge to death?


Scolding young students for their wrongdoing is regarded as provoking violence. So this means the public prosecutors dictated the citizens’ code of conduct, that we should ignore whatever other people are doing~~ Aha


Does it agree with common sense to charge without detention and cancel the warrant when someone DIED?


OMG how can the student and his family cut off all contact right away? They are complete garbage. It wouldn’t be enough if they took responsibility [for the victim’s family] for a lifetime. A family is ruined by a piece of garbage from the waste ground


That high schooler should disappear from this country. Why the death of an innocent and good person? That fucking sob.


I know Korea’s public order is well kept, but it really isn’t right that they do what they do to the captured criminal. There surely is a best shield, but the weapon used is a cotton swab. I sincerely wish the level of punishment to criminals is increased.


‘The student’s family visited the hospital every day during the late Kim’s stay there after the incident. They persuaded her that they will be responsible for all the hospital bills and funeral expenses, even if they had to take out a loan to cover them, telling her ‘the survivors should go on living.’ Trusting them, Yoo told to the police that she did not want any punishment [against the student]. But her confession led to yet more pain. The court of justice cancelled the warrant issued to the student for bodily injury resulting in death, and the student’s family promptly severed contact’. …………………………………These people are not humans


Oh my god ke ke ke the victim partly provoked the violence? Does the judge wish Korea to become China? Does the judge view that it was a provocation of violence to grab someone’s throat during the discipline of an adolescent? Then the teachers who punish students by beating them deserve to die? What a state we are in, ke ke ke We should replace our legal circles ke ke ke The judges only make impractical and unrealistic judgements. Useless idiots


Reveal the contact details or identity of the assailant. We will kill him


The criminal lives in peace and the victim in shadow. What a great country we have….


Those people are worse than a brute.. That is a kind of fraud.. They killed a person, settled the problem with the victim’s family and then fled.. The laws are problematic, but the student’s family is even worse – they are garbage


[The judges] used to study hard [to get to their position], never paying attention to other people. Does that habit affect their judgement, too?

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  • dk2020

    sad story with all victims ..

  • Ruaraidh

    I really loathe public spitting, but the elder Kim basically started a brawl with two separate people and died from falling over and banging his head.

    The deceased Kim thought he was a big enough man to grab a stranger on the street by the neck and punch two other strangers trying to calm him down. All the while being watched by his five year old son.

    I really feel sad for his family, and the actions of the young Kim’s family are reprehensible, but I don’t think it’s murder. Any one of the people involved could have fallen and banged their head, it’s not like he was curb stomped to death.

    • Brett

      Unfortunately, I agree with the evidence in this circumstance. The guy had no right to start getting physical and no one could have forseen that he would fall and die from head trauma.

      That said, it really is a shame that there is no program to help the family. Just a terrible situation for all parties. Even the kid responsible for the death will have to live with the guilt forever… I am sure he isn’t laughing about it with his friends or anything.

    • Patricks

      I remember this story well. The man was out of line for grabbing the collar of one of the children. Telling him to not spit on the ground should have been where it ended. Spitting on the ground in Korea isn’t a crime, and most “older” men seem to do this more than kids so, of course, the boy would have seen the whole act as rather hypocritical and rightfully ignored the man. The fact that the older man even hit the intervening boy, who was trying to defuse the situation, tells me he was partly responsible for the accident that occurred. To me, it sounds like this was a family that was struggling with poverty well before this incident. Even if she had pressed charges initially, the judge should have ruled the event as an unfortunate accident and any payment she may have received should have been out of kindness from the younger boy’s family. Maybe they’re equally stuck in poverty. The fact that they would have to take out a loan to help out with the bills tells me they are. Who knows.

      • seungri_92

        Except the only difference is that the boy who ’caused’ the death probably has a father to provide for him and the three children don’t have anyone. The man was out of line? This most certainly isn’t out of line and this isn’t the west. The kids should respect the elders and spitting on the ground is pretty disrespectful. He rightfully ignored the man? What is right about not respecting elders in Asian culture?

        • Patricks

          I guess we’ll have to disagree on the cause here. I’ll side with the police on this one. I’m sure the police took into consideration that this was a man who easily became enraged and even attacked the boy who was trying to prevent the event from escalating further.

          In Korea, younger people are supposed to respect their elders. This is true, but this certainly is not your ideal Korea. The act of approaching a younger boy (stranger) and out of no where grabbing him by the collar to express a point is pretty uncommon here. When is the last time you’ve ever seen something like this and I’m talking about a non-parent grabbing another child. I would say that it is more common for older people (strangers) to express their disapproval with a nasty stare, or words and that is usually where they draw the line. If he had limited his actions to these, the man would likely be alive today. If the act was something more disrespectful, or let’s say had occurred on the public transit system, or on a restaurant’s floor (all of which I’ve seen people spit here), I could see where just maybe the man was right (in Korea) for taking that next physical step, but even then, I think it would be a rare occurrence.

          In the West spitting on the ground is pretty disrespectful, in Korea not so much. People do it all the time here, especially smokers. In my life’s travels I’ve never been to another country where I’ve seen people spit more. In fact, this is probably one of the first things I noticed when I came here and that grownups were the one’s that did it the most made it even more surprising and disgusting.

          • Patricks

            Just a side note, but sometimes it is the smallest details that seem the strangest in these stories. I mean the whole incident is bizarre, but here is a father who returns from dinner at 12 midnight, probably after a few drinks (might explain the short fuse), his 5 year old son is still wide awake and it is time to go and buy him a new toy at a convenience store, no less. Guess they sell expensive toy cars now too. Alright. I don’t know, but sounds a lot like a soju run to me.

  • seungri_92

    Speechless. I guess even the law won’t protect us from these disrespectful monsters

  • Kate

    Doesn’t Korea have a social welfare system for those in bad situations like this woman and her family? If they don’t, they should. If this woman and her family were living in the usa, she could get gov sub housing, food stamps, medicare and her sick mil until she was able to get back on her feet. Welfare is great when it isn’t abused and actually helps those who need it. I know it has a bad rep but there are many geuinely needy people who need help until they can get themselves together.

    Despite whose fault it is, this woman is now a single mother in Korea trying to suport children and extended family and she needs help and The Korean government needs to help their citizens like this.

    • Ruaraidh

      The Korean government is trying to maintain competitively low labour costs, unfortunately an effective social welfare system raises the cost of labour.

      Situations like these are the cost of prioritising GDP over national welfare. It must be so easy for neoliberals in Korea to point north and accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being a communist sympathiser.

      • redgirls

        Is there not a widows fund to help such families?
        Is the law not duty bound to investigate a death like this regardless of whether the family want to prosecute or not?

        • Ruaraidh

          By the sounds of it he was a temp worker, something that is a significant social issue in Korea, and therefore probably has no work related benefits for his family.

          I have no idea about a widows fund. I’ve read that South Korea is a really bad place for being a widow, but I’m not sure how comprehensive the study that came to that conclusion was.

          I do know that out of the economically developed countries, Korea has a really bad reputation for state welfare.

          • redgirls

            Thank you Ruaraidh, Sorry for the late reply.
            I would hope this family in such a position would qualify for some sort of state care.

    • chucky3176

      S.Korea in 1999, instituted a minimum wage guarantee for the poor – doesn’t matter if they are working or not. The mother in the story, if she doesn’t make the minimum, would be eligible for government monthly income subsidy. The subsidy, in purchase power parity GDP, is about 97% of the American poverty guideline. This is in a country where the GDP per head is only about 70% of USA.

      This is an election year in Korea, and one of the hottest issues in this election is the increasing and revamping of the welfare promises by all the political parties. Each party has been promising more and more promises of increasing programs for the poor. But the latest highly publicized research show that if all the election year promises were fulfilled, South Korea would be the most indebted country in the world by the year 2050, and very well likely to be bankrupt. After this research came out, the clamoring for more welfare systems have slackened off, although it’s still there.

      But as of now, South Korea is the only OECD country who is on its way to a balanced budget through the cutting of the budget deficits. For Korea which has no natural resources, job creation is more important than taking on debt and mortgaging the future.

      I might want to add, North Korean defectors, and families who are considered multicutural families get far more better support from the government with a very generous welfare system that even surpasses the Western welfare system in terms of purchase power parity. It’s one of the reasons why more Korean men (especially the poor) are preferring to marry mail order brides. They would be eligible for a wide range of programs which Korean-Korean couples could only dream of.

      • Kate

        I’m a mail order bride Chucky….I was shipped fedex and cost 49.95 ^_^

        • chucky3176

          Well Kate, you don’t count since you contain a product defect and should be returned to the original manufacturer for repairs under the one year warranty program.

          But seriously, if you lived in Korea, you would still be eligible to apply for all the programs including cash – no matter what your income level. Of course, some foreigners who don’t need the service, have a conscious and many do refuse the unnecessary help. But it just tells you how wasteful the programs that should be helping the really needy are being used.

          • Brett

            Wow! Did I sense humor!? I actually laughed, good job chuckster. And good info on the welfare programs. The problem seems to be similar to America’s; the services are there, but they are misused or misdirected.

          • Kate

            Lmao ♥ I’m defectively awesome ^_^

      • Keep this kind of interesting insight coming Chucky, you’re much more amicable when you’re actually contributing.

        • Sillian

          I second this. Chucky knows a lot about Asian affairs. I don’t know why he would go on angry rants so often and ruin his entire posts containing valid points.

        • lonetrey / Dan

          Agreed; I actually like this Chucky :O

        • TrickyNishidake

          Knowledge can be infuriating, especially in the context of Asian politics and social behaviour.

          • spamgoeshere

            If by ‘knowledge’ you mean ‘bullshit masquerading as fact,’ then yes.

        • spamgoeshere

          You people are disturbingly credulous.

          • Oh, you have to take into account Chucky’s posting history, I don’t care if his facts and figures don’t add up, at least he’s not preaching hate. Your extended rebuttal below is most welcome, thanks for contributing.

      • Justin_kBANG

        This… I am so… shocked…. Kind of made me laugh… lol

      • spamgoeshere

        TL;DR this post is full of misrepresentations, misinformation and a smattering of lies. Rebuttals follow:

        1. Outright lie
        “South Korea is the only OECD country who is on its way to a balanced budget through the cutting of the budget deficits”

        Obviously false (and weirdly circular wording). ROK is *NOT* the only OECD member with a budget surplus in 2011- there are at least five others (depending on how you view Hungary’s pension nationalization). Four of the five are projected to have surpluses in 2012, too:

        – Switzerland: +0.6%
        – Russia: +0.8%
        – Estonia: +0.1%
        – Sweden: +0.1%
        – Norway: +14.8%
        (a)(b) (see endnotes for sources, links)

        2. Misrepresentation
        “The mother in the story, if she doesn’t make the minimum, would be eligible for government monthly income subsidy.”

        Gross simplification, and likely untrue.

        First off, let’s define terms. What the OP calls a “government income subsidy” is a program sometimes called in English “National Minimum Living Standard Guarantee” (MLSG or MOHW) established under the National Basic Livelihood Security Act of September 1999. The agency that administers the program is referred to as the National Basic Livelihood Security System (NBLSS).

        Second, and most important, qualifying for MLSG is extraordinarily difficult. Fewer than 3% of the entire ROK population qualifies for aid, despite having one of the highest poverty rates in the OECD. (c)(d) CIA Factbook estimates the poverty rate at 15%. (a) This would imply that only 20% of the poor are able to use the program- hardly the loafer’s paradise the OP posits.

        Furthermore, the widow in the article would probably NOT be eligible for aid because of stringent ‘workfare’ requirements. “NBLSS requires able-bodied benefit recipients to participate in the self-reliance support programmes as a condition of receiving financial assistance.” (e) As the article clearly states, the widow is staying at home to care for her children and her elderly mother in law.

        Also, unstated in the article is the widow’s family situation. If she has any family that has any assets at all, she further would be deemed ineligible for aid (c). MLSG is only available for those who have no relatives with assets. Since almost everyone in ROK has a relative somewhere who owns some assets, the vast majority are disqualified from receiving MLSG.

        3. Ridiculous conclusions
        “South Korea would be the most indebted country in the world by the year 2050, and very well likely to be bankrupt”

        This assertion is so ludicrous, it’s hard to take seriously. The “report” referenced is obviously worse than a joke. Japan’s estimated debt as a percent of of 2011 GDP is 208%, Korea’s is 34%. (a) ROK has a long way to go to catch up to Japan in cardinal and percentage numbers. Putting aside the questionable value inherent in 38 year projections, I’d love to see the report. Is it written in crayon?

        4. Gibberish
        “The subsidy, in purchase power parity GDP, is about 97% of the American poverty guideline. This is in a country where the GDP per head is only about 70% of USA.”

        I have no idea what this even means. What is this ‘American poverty guideline’ and why are your comparing it to a ‘subsidy’ (MLSG?). Are you referring to the poverty threshhold published by the US office of management and budget? If so, is that a good proxy for the benefits received from federal and state governments? What are you comparing it to? MLSG? MLSG + other benefits?

        Lastly, your numbers seem to be a fiction. An NGO reports that NBLSS’s
        “amount of benefit per capita is 234,000 KW as of 2004” (f). Less than $234 per month x 12 months = $2800 / year. The 2011 US poverty threshhold for a single person under 65 years old was $11,484. In which universe is $2800 97% of $11,484?

        The OP is so rich with partisan nonsense (oh man, that shot at multicultural households) that a reply could go on forever, so I’ll end this here. If offered a parting shot, though, I’d write that Norway is the best rebuttal to the thesis that an immigrant-embracing, welfare state is destined for fiscal ruin.


        a. CIA factbook

        b. Global finance magazine (

        c. International Journal of Social Welfare 2006, “The Korean welfare state: a paradox of expansion in an era of globalisation and economic crisis,” Kwon, Holiday, (

        d. Radio Australia, “One quarter of South Koreans touched by poverty,” Feb 13, 2012 (

        e. Hong Kong legislative Council Secretariat, “Information Note: Poverty Combating Strategy in South Korea,” (

        f. International Labour Organization: (

        • chucky3176

          2. These are the aid criteria that are laid out by the Social Security Department of ROK

          a) Income level of beneficiary should fall below minimum cost of living
          which is set and reviewed by the Minister of Health and Welfare

          b) Beneficiary should not have any person liable to support them,
          or if there is any, that person should be either unable or unreliable to
          support them.

          These are 2004 numbers.

          It’s ludicrous of you to suggest that all 15% of the people who are regarded as poor, need public assistance. In any society, there are always going to be working poor who do not require nor should be given any public assistance. The three percent of Koreans (or 1.4 million Koreans who were counted in 2004) who are receiving public assistance are the people who absolutely need help. So on the contrary, I’ve never suggested South Korea’s a paradise for free loafers, like in the West where welfare bums who haven’t worked a single day in their lives, and single teen mothers get pregnant for 17th time, are a common occurrence. And I’m glad Korea isn’t like that. Only the people who absolutely need public assistance will get help. As for this woman, we don’t know what her real status is. If she’s desperate for help, as she claims she is, then she maybe eligible based on the requirements laid out by the welfare department.

          3. It’s no a ridiculous conclusion. Read the Wallstreet Journal here.

          By 2050, as things stand, S.Korea’s debt level will hit 138% of GDP, from 34% today. That certainly isn’t Japan’s level. But don’t forget, Japan’s debt is largely funded by the Japanese themselves. Which is entirely different from what Korea will end up with – which is foreign debt. With a Korean currency succeptible to roller coaster rides, does Korea want to take a chance that foreign investors won’t start dumping Korean Won because they can’t trust Korea’s ability to pay back 138% debt load to GDP? It’s called Greek style bankruptsy for Korea, and it’s the reason why Greek is falling (despite their lower debt to GDP ratio than Japan’s), while Japan is still standing.

          4. What don’t you get? First of all, your figures are partially incorrect because you’re using 2004 numbers when the per capita income was only around $15,000 on a currency which used to be around 1300 won per dollar. But it’s fact that S.Korea’s welfare payments have skyrocketed since 2004, along with increased per capita income to $23,000. Second, you’re using nominal per capita income payouts based on an NGO special interest group who are clamoring for a welfare state. Read again my post:

          “The subsidy, in purchase power parity GDP, is about 97% of the Americanpoverty guideline. This is in a country where the GDP per head is only about 70% of USA.”

          Read the Economist report. Read further down, and it will explain what it means.

          S.Korea has other welfare programs to help the poor. The basic income guarantee is just one of the programs available.

          In conclusion. I never claimed Korea is a panacea for free assistance to all the free loafers. I am glad it isn’t. But it also doesn’t mean that there is no meaningful welfare programs for the absolute needy. There are programs that are there to help the most desperate. But at the same time it isn’t too much help to discourage people from working and free loading off of the state. I think what Korea has right now, is much more balanced than the generous Western countries which discourage people from being productive, while at the same time, bankrupting many of the countries with out of control debt to GDP ratio which will bring trouble later.

          • jon79

            When you say “west” you probably mean the US and one or two EU countries
            perhaps. Welfare in the northerns European countries work just fine and Korea should learn from the success of the nordic countries.

          • dk2020

            have you ever lived in those nordic countries? it’s a virtual utopia .. on paper, everybody should move over there.. hyfr.

          • jon79

            Yes. I live in one, and I have lived in many places around the world. Any nordic country is a utopia compared to other countries. But obviously not flawless.

          • spamgoeshere

            TL;DR: Thread necro rebuttal, in case posterity comes across this posting while researching the state of Korea’s welfare programs.

            To start, OP’s response was way more reasonable than I anticipated, but I still find his/her arguments flawed, and the evidence supplied to be suspect.

            1. OECD deficit figures refutes OP’s central argument
            OP never replied to my first point about Korea being the only OECD country with a budget surplus (implying that this is a result of low social welfare spending) being inaccurate. I think this is an essential point to address, since OP dogmatically accepts this belief as a given, even when presented with evidence to the contrary. When presented with refuting evidence, OP ignores the point completely.

            Once again, Norway and Sweden have some of the most generous social welfare programs (and quality of life) in the world, yet maintained budget surpluses in 2011 (in Norway’s case, more than an order of magnitude greater as a percent of GDP). Repeating OP’s thesis ad nausea doesn’t make it true.

            2. Widow is likely ineligible to receive aid

            This point has been derailed by a few ancillary points which I’ll address below. However, I elaborate further on reasons that the widow is likely ineligible for aid.

            A. Why she’s likely ineligible:
            First off, if you want to skip all this shit and hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, follow this endnote to the website of ROK’s Ministry of Health & Welfare, which lays out means tests. (a)

            If you are a glutton for punishment and want to get into the mechanics of receiving social welfare benefits, the process can be broken down into two general stages for applicants: 1. passing a ‘means test,’ and 2. meeting conditions of aid.

            Once again, it’s unclear if the widow would ‘pass’ the means test (meaning her assets and earnings are below a minimum won figure- you can see the levels here (b)). If her mother in law or blood parents have assets, they would be obliged to provide support in most cases. Since her blood family’s situation is unknown, there’s not enough info in the article to assume she’s eligible.

            More importantly, even if the widow met the means test, she would not meet the conditions of aid. To reiterate from my first post: “NBLSS requires able-bodied benefit recipients to participate in the self-reliance support programmes as a condition of receiving financial assistance.” (c) Again, the article states that the widow is staying at home to care for her mother in law and children, thus, she would not meet the conditions of her benefit.

            B. Rebuttal to: “It’s ludicrous of you to suggest that all 15% of the people who are regarded as poor, need public assistance.”

            The problem is that I did not suggest implicitly or explicitly that 15% of ROK ‘needs public assistance.’

            I and OP misread/inferred what the other wrote. In my case, I incorrectly inferred that OP was suggesting that ROK’s current welfare policies are overly generous and over-subscribed. On second reading, nothing OP wrote suggests that. Similarly, OP misread what I wrote. The 15% figure (along with the 3% MLSG qualification rate) were introduced to demonstrate the stringent qualifications for public benefits.

            C. Partisanship
            This line is a special gem: “[in the west] welfare bums who haven’t worked a single day in their lives, and single teen mothers get pregnant for 17th time, are a common occurrence.” I’d like to meet teen mothers who have had 17 pregnancies. Those are some productive, young ovaries.

            It’s hard to take OP’s arguments seriously when his/her knowledge of Western social welfare programs seems to be based on caricature and a desire to provoke, rather than on anything that could be construed as fact, data or evidence.

            I can’t write for the rest of ‘the West,’ but is the OP aware that the US passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 which requires training or work in order to receive benefits? Is the OP also aware that many recipients of aid are either widowed or single working mothers, and not ‘welfare bums who haven’t worked a single day in their lives’? No? Well why do research when you can toss around false generalizations? You posit a ridiculous straw man (decadent west) and then posit an equally ridiculous counter (lean, mean ROK).

            3. Korean debt explosion: ridiculous conclusion remains ridiculous

            It seems clear to me that OP cherry picks bits from articles that agree with his/her narrow world view and ignores the rest. For those scoring at home, OP offered this quote “by 2050, as things stand, S.Korea’s debt level will hit 138% of GDP.”

            This quote is from a WSJ *blog* post that quotes a projection from ROK’s Ministry of Finance and Strategy. That sounds reasonable… until you actually read the blog post.

            The ministry’s projection is based on “CAMPAIGN PLEDGES” from the minority party (DUP) (and whose campaign pledges? Moon Jae-In? Individual Congressmen? The party?). Let’s be even more clear, the projection is NOT for an existing law/program, a bill, a discussion in committee, or even a policy debate within the ruling party; it’s for campaign pledges from a minority party. If you believe that campaign promises from a minority party closely mirror the future, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell to you. It’s got lots of character and I’ll let you have it cheap.

            First off, who is naive enough to believe accept all campaign pledges as faits accomplis? Let alone from a party that maintains just 127 of 300 seats in the national assembly?

            The most misleading part of what the OP wrote is his intro sentence: “As things stand, [by 2050] S.Korea’s debt level will hit 138% of GDP.” As things stand? They don’t stand! They don’t exist. They’re a strict hypothetical. But the way this sentence is written makes it sound like an established fact.

            Second, let’s look at how laws are passed in ROK to understand why DUP will never get all their campaign pledges passed. Bills are introduced by either the executive or the unicameral legislative branch. Ok, no problem there. But in order to *pass* the bill into a law, “a majority of the National Assembly members must be present, and a majority of those present must vote for the bill”. (d)

            The ruling Saenuri party has 49.7% (149 of 300) of the seats in the National Assembly. (e) Although there’s an election coming up and that number is sure to change, it’s unlikely that DUP could form a coalition with all the independents and minority parties to push through their campaign pledges unchanged. Suggesting otherwise is not just nonsense, it’s a borderline insult to reason.

            4. The Economist is wrong, what I don’t understand, incorrect corrections

            A. Understanding flawed reasoning = futile

            First, here’s what I didn’t/don’t understand about the comparison: a. what the hell they were comparing (benefits, means tests? poodle tail lengths?), b. the relevance of comparing a means test in one country with the means test in another.

            After being provided with a link to the article, the first point is clearer. It seems the economist reporter is comparing the means test in Korea (MLSG) against either of the US government’s ‘poverty guideline’ or ‘poverty threshold.’

            But to the second point, it strikes me as profoundly stupid to compare benefit levels by comparing means tests (see earlier discussion in point 1 on means vs benefits). A means test is not a perfect proxy for benefits, especially when comparing between two countries. And what benefits would you measure? Direct cash transfers alone, or would you include the value of programs like food stamps, public housing, subsidized mass transit, school lunches, jobs training, utilities discounts and healthcare? How could you even begin to quantify and compare benefits? Furthermore, each of the 50 states in the US administers social welfare programs differently, so how can you generalize a means test or benefit level? Do you take an average? Is that reasonable or just quixotic?

            Having written that, I know why the economist reporter compared means test levels- because they are easy numbers to find, and reporters are inherently short on time and patience (some are lazy, too). That doesn’t mean the resulting article is meaningful. The reporter just took an easy way to bolster the Economist’s general attitude towards the subject (onoes! welfare transforming scrappy asian ‘tigers’ into bloated, lazy france!).

            B. OP’s incorrect corrections of incorrections

            The OP is correct that the 2004 MLSG figure quoted (234,000 Won/month) is incorrect. However, OP’s correction is incorrect (correct-ception?).

            The MLSG I stated (234,000 Won/month in 2004) is based on a bad source. The correct 2011 figure (direct from ROK’s ministry of health & welfare) is 553,353 Won/month. It appears my source simply used the 1999 MLSG that was originally set by the National Basic Livelihood Security Act of September 1999. After much searching, I found ROK’s english language website for the Ministry of Healh & Welfare that publishes details on MLSG. Current and recent historical figures are available in this endnote (f),

            I suspect the researcher for the website that I referenced couldn’t find the english language page for the Ministry of Health & Welfare, but found plenty of english research papers referencing the 1999 figure and went with it. Sloppy.

            C. ROK MLSG is NOT 97% of US HHS poverty guideline

            TL;DR: The Economist is wrong. ROK MLSG is 74.3% of US HHS poverty guideline in 2011 PPP, NOT 97%.

            By my calculations, this article is wrong. Full disclosure: I am a subscriber to the economist, and generally like their snarky britishness but find some of their reporting oversimplified, misstated or less than credible (especially in their science section). I am also no expert in international monetary policy, having only taken one course on it during my MBA.

            Didact mode, activate! Here are the data and calcs if you want to play along at home:


            i. 2011 MLSG (monthly) for 1 person: 553,353 Won (f)
            ii. 2011 OECD purchasing power parity: 821 Won/USDollar (g)

            iii. US poverty guideline – annual (HHS): $10,890 (h), or
            iv. US poverty threshold – annual (US Census): $11,484 (i)

            i. Annualized MLSG
            ( 553,353 Won/Month ) * 12 months = 6,640,248 Won

            ii. Convert annualized MLSG Won to USDollars PPP
            ( 6,640,248 Won ) * ( $1/821 Won PPP) = $8,088

            iii. Divide annualized MLSG (USD) to US HHS poverty guideline
            ( $8,088 / $10,890 ) = 74.27%

            iv. (Alternate) Divide annualized MLSG (USD) to US Census poverty threshhold
            ( $8,088 / $11,484 ) = 70.43%

            Algebra prevails.
            74% ≠ 97%
            70% ≠ 97%

            Note: the less stupid poverty benchmark to use here is the HHS number since it is used in means tests, whereas the Census number appears to be just for classification purposes, and is not widely used for means testing.

            And finally, a couple closing thoughts.

            OP accused me of partisanship for sourcing data to an NGO promoting labor rights (International Labor Organization). I find this accusation both deeply unfounded and pleasing. On one hand, It’s nice to know that someone’s digging through one’s endnotes (especially when he sources the same site in his rebuttal), on the other hand, I fail to see how referencing dry data published on a site is partisan. It took some digging to find the MLSG site on the ministry of health and welfare (possibly because google skews my results to US sources), so I went with the data I had. Although it was bad data, there was no intent to misinform (which is more than i can write of OP).

            What I found delightful though, was OP’s righteous indignation at being accused of partisanship, even while jabbering that “in the West… welfare bums who haven’t worked a single day in their lives, and single teen mothers get pregnant for 17th time, are a common occurrence.” Partisanship? Pot, kettle, black.

            Or does OP have a source for that?

            Losing battles, losing wars

            This argument/battle is largely moot, because an expansion of the welfare state is coming to ROK no matter who wins the next election. OP- your war is lost. Saenuri and DUP are both proposing expansions in programs (modestly and aggressively, respectively).

            How large the welfare state should be in ROK is a legitimate matter for debate with no absolute ‘right’ answer, but there is consensus that it should grow. The OECD’s widely followed measure of inequality-adjusted Human Development Index shows Korea at a pathetic 28 of 35 among OECD countries (below Hungary, Greece and Cyprus) Unadjusted HDI shows a more respectable, but unspectacular 15th place. (j)

            And guess who’s at the top of both adjusted and unadjusted HDI? Yes, budget surplus-ed, immigrant loving, welfare providing Norway. (j)

            *** Endnotes ***

            (a) ROK Ministry of Health & Welfare – Eligibility test (

            (b) ROK Ministry of Health * Welfare – Eligibility Criteria

            (c) Hong Kong legislative Council Secretariat, “Information Note: Poverty Combating Strategy in South Korea,” (

            (d) Washington University Manual Of International Legal Citation (

            (e) Wikipedia (

            (f) Ministry of health * welfare – benefit level (

            (g) OECD Stats Extract (

            (h) US Health & Human Services 2011 Poverty Guidelines (

            (i) US Census 2011 Poverty Threshholds (

            (j) Wikipedia – Human Development Index (

          • chucky3176

            First of all, I never claimed that South Korea is a generous welfare state. It is not. I merely responded to questions about the South Korean welfare system, and to clear up the misunderstanding about the Korean welfare system, in which many people probably incorrectly thought that, didn’t exist. I merely pointed out that there is welfare in South Korea.

            1) I never claimed South Korea was the only country with a “budget surplus”. Nowhere have I said that. What I said was South Korea is one of the few in the OECD which is on its way to a balanced budget. This is a big difference. For instance, the 2013 budget proposal will mean a budget deficit of 0.03% of the total GDP. In other words, it’s almost a balanced budget. There are very few countries in the OECD who has a balanced or surplus budget. That was my main point, without getting into minute details (my bad) as to which countries have surpluses.

            2) You just summed up everything when you said “there’s not enough info in the article to assume she’s eligible”. That’s right, we cannot tell her eligibility just by only reading her brief story on a news article. You just said this yourself. There are particular reasons why the Korean government have in place, strict guidelines as to who is able to receive aid. Only those people who are in need of help should be given. Having blood family who can help out so therefore not eligible for public aid, is not entirely an unreasonable expectation. There is nothing wrong with South Korea promoting family unity, and family cohesion, over individuality. In 2004, there were 1.4 million Koreans who were on public welfare. By 2010, social welfare spending increased by an average of 10.8 percent in five years, 2.2 times higher than the OECD average. The welfare budget also increased to 27.0 percent of the entire GDP budget in 2006. In 2010, the welfare budget increased 8.9 percent from the previous year of 2009. (Source: Korea Times July 12, 2010). In short, you keep saying welfare is too hard to qualify, but just looking at the increase of public payouts and their rapidly outstripping OECD welfare budget growth rate, somebody are getting the payments. That somebodys are millions of Koreans who now depend on public assistance. If what you say is correct and too many welfare dependents are being denied because they don’t qualify, then we should be at least seeing steady or even declining welfare budget growth rates. But that’s not what’s happening, as South Korea’s welfare budgets are doubling the OECD growth rates. And what’s not even mentioned in the above source, are what has happening in the last couple of years, with additions of new programs like the free lunch programs for all school kids, and increased coverage of daycare services for working parents. And those aren’t even included into the welfare figures mentioned above.

            3) The Korean debt implosion is real. Korea can stop all budget deficits (irregardless of the type of spending) today, but this is what’s happening when you add up ALL the debt, both private and public government debts.


            So theoretically and sarcastically, South Korea will need as much room in Korean government debt, when the Korean government will find themselves in a situation where they will have to step in and bail out all the companies, banks, and individuals who will need government bail outs, and take on much more public debt load that they have today. So they will need lots of room to take on the new public debt loads down the road in the future. After all, just look at what happened to US government public debt, before and after the sub prime mortgage crisis, when the US government debt level skyrocketed after all those bail outs of private institutions. This is what South Korea maybe facing in the future too.

            4) You may argue with the Economist on how they came up with that calculations. I merely quoted them to support my position. There’s only thing I know, I know Economist, they are a reputable source of information and they are highly respected publishing company. On the other hand, I don’t know you, you’re an anonymous poster on an internet site. If I had to choose which side is more trust worthy in doing the correct calculation, I would pick the Economist, over you, any day of the week. Even taking your own calculations, 74% of the US poverty guideline, is not terrible at all. Even you have admitted that Korea’s monthly average payouts has doubled from 2004 to 2011. Those are significant spending increases – I don’t understand why you think this is a problem.


            Let’s look a Norway, everyone’s favorite poster child, and compare them to South Korea.

            First, I don’t think these two countries are even comparable due to many different circumstances, it’s like comparing apples with oranges.

            Norway has a population of 5 million, versus 50 million in South Korea. Norway’s land mass easily outstrips South Korea by the multiplication by several times. Norway has a population in a huge land area, as opposed to South Korea, where people are densely packed into a small geographical area. This poses much greater advantage to Norway who have much greater natural resources like oil, for much fewer people, as opposed to South Korea who have virtually no natural resources to dig out, with a much greater population. Norway can share there great wealth with far fewer number of peoples, compared to South Korea which has to share its whatever the wealth with much greater number of peoples. Norway is an oil economy, all they have to do is to dig out their wealth. Korea, on the contrary, has to work for every dime they get. Korea’s greatest advantage is the people. Without them being productively working, South Korea will not exist as it is today, period.

            Norway is a very high income country, where a $40,000 a year income is considered a poverty line cutoff. This is because their wages are very, but at the same time the cost of living is extremely high. An average economy car may cost up to $50,000, more than twice what would cost in South Korea. So are the taxes. The lowest tax bracket is the 36% range. These are the low wage earner’s range. The average tax bracket exceeds 50%. To afford the kinds of public welfare that Norway offers, Norwegians have a social understanding that they have agree to. They will work for living, but they are willing to give half their wages they earn, to the government who are trusted to wisely spend on the behalf of the people of Norway. Norwegians trust their government.

            What about South Korea? If South Korea wants to emulate Norway, then South Korea will have to revamp the economic structure away from industrialized manufacturing and into service style industries. Because if you have very high wages, you will not survive the lower wages that are offered by other Asian countries. Just one look at Japan will tell us what will happen to Korea. There has to be a new stream of revenue, away from manufacturing. But unlike Norway which has vast amounts of natural resources, it will be very difficult for South Korea. Second, South Korea will have to increase the taxes to at least double what Koreans are paying now, but probably that still wouldn’t be enough. Would Koreans be accepting that they will see at least half of their incomes go to the government? I doubt it. Look at Greece, where there were generous social welfare programs, but where tax cheating by the public was so rampant, it lead to their economic collapse.

            To compare Norway to South Korea is just ludicrous and it just shows us how far away you’re away from reality. I think the better comparison for South Korea would be Japan. Look at what they’re doing right and wrong, but Norway? No way.

  • royaljester

    As much as lawyers get a bad rap, the reason you get them is so they can tell you to shut the f**k up and not listen to anything the defendant has to say or offer. In a serious situation like this, always get a lawyer. Even if the only good thing he does is tell you to shut up.

  • Alex

    I am thinking of setting up an online donation account, due to the family having such a hard time. What do you guys think?

    • holdingrabbits

      It’s a nice thought, but unless it’s sponsored by a larger more accountable organization no one will give. I wouldn’t give to something that was just set up by a guy, it would seem too much like a scam.

  • Paul M

    I wonder what the netizen’s reaction would be if the man had been spitting and the high school kid told him to stop and then started getting physical with the whole thing ending in the kid’s death.

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  • Jang

    The teenage boy(s) should put in jail for 2nd degree murder or at the very least involuntary manslaughter but S. Korea doesn’t have “manslaughter” in its law books. It only has 1st and 2nd degree murder. Manslaughter is when you kill someone but didn’t try or intend to do it.

    • Sillian

      Why do you believe South Korean court doesn’t consider manslaughter? You should look up 과실치사.

  • ytuque

    I’ve visited many countries, and nobody spits like the Koreans!

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