Monday, April 16, 2012

Korea Too Lenient on 119 Prank Callers?

At least once a semester, the fire alarm in my Korean elementary school will go off.  The alarm is very loud... and I am usually sitting in the subject teachers' office with my coworkers.  I will stand up from my desk and ask them, "Shouldn't we go outside?  Isn't that the fire alarm?"

To which they reply, "A student probably just pulled the alarm for fun.  Just ignore it.  If there is a real fire, someone will come around and tell us."  My reacting thought to this statement is... if nobody goes outside when an alarm is pulled (and the fire department does not automatically respond when it is pulled), what is the point of having it?

I came across this opinion article in the Dong-A Ilbo and someone else apparently does not appreciate the casualness displayed towards people in Korea who 'cry wolf'.
Korea takes a lenient stance on those who make false emergency calls on crime, in contrast to the global practice of harsh civil and criminal penalties to such prank callers. 
This is because such prank calls threaten lives by hindering the emergency posture of law enforcement officials and waste taxpayers` money. So the fine in many countries for a prank caller can reach hundreds of dollars, and certain governments track those who cry wolf to claim damages. 
In the U.S., those who make false 911 calls face one to three years in prison or fines of 100 to 25,000 U.S. dollars depending on the number of police officers mobilized. The severity of punishment and fine amount vary according to state. 
In Tennessee, a 50-year-old woman was arrested for making two fake calls to 911, saying a hamburger "was not tasty," and detained for five days. 
In the U.K., those who make prank 999 calls face a fine up to 5,000 pounds (8,000 dollars) or six months in prison. If an emergency call proves to be a prank, police calculate the sum spent on the mobilization of personnel and equipment and bill the culprit for damages. 
All emergency calls are recorded automatically. If a call is suspected to false, the caller is traced by analyzing the place where the call is made and the caller`s voice in principle. 
In Australia, prank 000 callers can face up to three years in prison. In Singapore, they can be fined up to 20,000 dollars and five years behind bars. 
Argentina, where false emergency calls have caused a lot of damage, enhanced laws in 2006 to punish prank callers. It raised the punishment to 1,410 dollars in fines and 30 days in detention.
In Korea, the number of malicious false calls saying explosives have been planted is increasing. 
Authorities in 2007 thus began charging culprits with obstruction of justice, a charge that merits up to five years in prison. Just 0.5 percent of those who made prank calls was arrested, however, as most underwent summary proceedings and faced under 100,000 won (88 dollars) in fines. 
A police source said, "The number of 112 calls has increased around 60 percent over the past five years, but that of police officers grew just 1.6 percent over the same period, causing officers to suffer work overload," adding, "Those who receive emergency calls remain tense, but false calls undermine the attention and moral of emergency workers."
Wow, Korea really is lenient on people who make fake emergency calls if those statistics are true.  It also does not surprise me at all that Singapore appears to be the harshest place.


Unknown said...

It's not really surprising Korea has next to no punishment for abuse of 119. All you have to do is look at the lack of respect on the roads for emergency services, ambulances and fire appliances simply have to wait in traffic like everyone else. For a country so proud of it group mentality this should be quite embarrassing as it shows when on the roads it's every man for himself even if that means someone dying because the emergency services were stuck in traffic.

I'm not sure what it is like around the world but where I'm from if an emergency vehicle has its lights and siren on everyone gets the hell out of the way. I think everyone realises that someone's life could be on the line and a minute stuck in traffic could make all the difference. In Korea there seems to be a real disconnect or disregard of that relationship and it obviously extends to the 119 and 112 numbers.

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