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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