m a r k a n d e y a

Just work harder…

Posted by Brian on March 20, 2007

There was a tragic story in the Korean news a few days ago about a young boy who was kidnapped and killed as part of a plot to get his wealthy parents to hand over 130 million won to the kidnapper. While it is an indefensible action, I do take issue with one facet of the Korea Herald’s criticism of his behavior:

The motive for the kidnapping and killing is inexcusable. He had a debt of 130 million won. Instead of working extra hard to repay his debt, the kidnapper, in his 20s, chose what he thought was an easy way out. Kidnap a rich boy, get a ransom, and pay back the debt. The boy would be killed so as to make it a perfect crime. It is unbelievable that such a plan was conceived by a physically fit young man with a son of his own.

One hundred and thirty million won comes to about $138,000 in US dollars. Now, according to the World Bank, Korea’s average national income is about $15,000 US dollars per person. Doing the math, assuming an average salary, he would have to work 9 straight years and turn over every penny of his income to the bank in order to pay off that debt. Saving half of his income, it would take 18 years to pay off that debt. With a son of his own, saving a quarter of his income might be possible, but then he would be paying off his debt for 30+ years. With such a bleak future, it’s no wonder he saw his kidnapping scheme to be the easy way out.

I’m not defending his actions, of course, but the KH editorial strikes me as quite insensitive to the realities of the working class in Korea. A 130,000,000W debt is a huge debt to pay off… it’s not simply a matter of clocking in a few hours of overtime each week and clipping a few more coupons for a few years until the debt is settled. I can only imagine the pressure this guy was under… and that’s the kind of pressure that would drive a man to murder.

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