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Evaluation of Criminal Law Legislation by the 20th National Assembly and Further Challenges
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December 01, 2020


The number of bills introduced to the 20th National Assembly which closed as of May 29, 2020 set an all-time record in the history of the nation. It should be viewed positively had it been a result of a greater variety of windows built lately, such as National Petition And Proposal Board, through which the public can express their opinions more freely and frequently, and a keen response and listening of the government and the members of Assembly toward such opinions. On the other hand, there is a risk of unconstitutionality or constitutional nonconformity to be found later by the court if the content of the bills and the legislation process had not been examined thoroughly. To evaluate the achievement and the limitation of the 20th Assembly is a prerequisite to a successful development of criminal legislation by the 21st Assembly which began on May 30, 2020. Therefore, this study would like to examine the status and outcome of the 20th Assembly's effort in criminal legislation, and suggest a desirable direction that the 21th Assembly should take. To achieve the goal, this study first checked all 24,141 bills introduced to the 20th Assembly, and conducted a more focused assessment over the 5,012 bills which can be classified as criminal legislation. The area in which the most criminal legislation proposals, 161 bills, were made was the Criminal Act, followed by the Act on Special Cases concerning the Punishment with 134 bills, the Criminal Procedure Act with 118 bills, the Act on the Protection of Children and Youth against Sex Offences with 72 bills, the Court Organization Act with 57 bills, the Juvenile Act with 42 bills, the Act on Special Cases concerning the Punishment, Etc. of Child Abuse Crimes with 41 bills, and the Act on Aggravated Punishment, Etc. of Specific Crimes with 40 bills, in that order. To sort the bills according to their key subject, the bills concerning sex crimes accounted for the majority with 19.5% of the entire criminal legislation, followed by the bills related to criminal justice reform with 16.3%, and the bills related to the Criminal Act, including the Punishment of Minor Offenses Act, with 11.3%, in that order. The rest of significant subjects included anti-corruption and briery(9.5%), public safety(6.2%), domestic violence and child abuse(6.0%), money laundering(5.6%), court organization(5.4%), and other economic crime(4.1%) and violence crime(4.0%), etc. Of the total 5,012 bills, the number that was passed and adopted was no more than 709(14.1% approval rate), while the rest of 4,303 bills were abandoned, recording 85.0%'s abandonment rate. The issues that not only attracted the nation's attention and carried a considerable significance in criminology and criminal policy included the adjustment of investigative jurisdiction between the prosecution and the police, countermeasure to sex crimes, prohibition of harassment and discrimination, youth crimes, occupational health and safety, domestic violence and child abuse, cryptocurrency and money laundering, hate speech and fake news, military human right and military court reform, and the Act on Attachment of Electronic Device, etc. Focusing on those issues, the present study examined the 20th Assembly's achievements as well as the limitation in its legislative effort. For instance, while sex crime-related legislation had been always active in the congress, it was reinforced and strengthened in the 20th Assembly as some grim cases, such as the Me Too movement and the Nth Room case in Telegram, broke in the course of the 20th Assembly. First, the Me Too movement served as a momentum to expose the seriousness of sexual abuse by the power of vocational authority in our society and led to reinforcement of punishment on sexual offences by abuse of occupational authority, etc., although still much more need to be done in other areas, such as alleviating the elements of rape offense, and establishing the offense of sexual intercourse etc., without consent. Moreover, through the Nth Room case a national consensus was formed concerning the seriousness of digital sex crime and the legislation on possession of child pornography materials was introduced, which is, in fact, a significant outcome in that possession of child pornography materials used to be considered less serious, but now the public recognized it as sexual exploitation and harassment. Also, various legislative efforts were made to strength the punishment on digital sex crime and the support for victims, of which the most note worthy include raising the age of sexual consent in statutory rape, and legislation of attempt, preparation and plot of rape, etc. On the other hand, it is pointed out as limitation that improvement of legal system for investigating digital sex crime, such as online searches and undercover investigations, etc. was not achieved, despite that existing investigation method is inapt to even accessing some closed online platforms, such as encryption and anonymity-based secret chats and Dark Web in Telegram. Meanwhile, it is critical to consider the objects of crime prevention and social protection in criminal legislation. The process of criminal legislation should be more carefully controlled as complying with the general principle of the Constitution and the criminal laws, because the effect of such legislation could be the imposition of criminal sanctions, which is likely to infringe the life, body and freedom of the people. The Congress should be able to distinguish act of crime (punishment) from violation of public order (fine), and area of freedom from area of limited freedom in order to ensure the rule of 'criminal law as last resort'. The Congress should also consider the development of technology and constantly evolving criminal activities as a result, and seek out more diligently the ways to improve the legal system that can properly respond to the changes of the times. Not even once, has been the Criminal Act of Korea reformed in full breadth since its enactment in 1953. During the period up to date, the criminal law system has become extremely complex as numerous special criminal laws have been enacted throughout, that ordinary citizens experience difficulties in understanding and predicting the potential punishment of specific types of crimes. Therefore, the Congress, in collaboration with the government, should prepare a full-scope reform of the Criminal Act so that the Act will be able to play a role as the fundamental law in criminal justice of the nation.

Jeeyoung Yun

Criminal Law&Policy, Public Safety and Crime Prevention

Senior Research Fellow

Jeeyoung Yun's picture

Research Interest (Major)

Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Criminal Policy

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The Criminal Justice Response and Development Strategy in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Ⅲ) : Virtual Reality(VR) and 3D Printing

Application of Videoconferencing System in Criminal Proceedings

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A Study on the Criminal Liability of Companies Profiting from Illegal Activities

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Criminal Compensation System : Operation Condition and Suggestion for Improvement

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Misuk Park

Criminal Justice Reform, Criminal Law&Policy

Senior Research Fellow

Misuk Park's picture

Research Interest (Major)

Criminal Law

Report List

Types of Offshore Tax Evasion and Its Legal Implications

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Yookeun Kim

Criminal Law&Policy, Criminal Justice Reform

Research Fellow

Yookeun Kim's picture

Research Interest (Major)

Criminal law theory, Criminal Procedure, Economic Crime

Report List

Risk-Governing Criminal Law and Criminology in the Late-Modern Society(Ⅰ) - Risk-Groverning Criminal Law & Criminology in the Contemporary Science-Technology Society

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Jinkuk Lee

Jinkuk Lee's picture

Report List

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Korean Institute of Criminology Official Video

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