The Korea Herald

피터빈트

Korea to enforce public release of mugshots, identities of those who commit serious crimes

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : Oct. 6, 2023 - 17:58

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The mugshot of Choi Yun-jong, the suspect in a rape and murder case that occurred in southern Seoul in July. Choi had consented to having his mugshot taken. (Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency) The mugshot of Choi Yun-jong, the suspect in a rape and murder case that occurred in southern Seoul in July. Choi had consented to having his mugshot taken. (Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency)

South Korea's parliament on Friday passed a bill that will allow law enforcement to release the mugshots of suspects arrested for serious crimes without their consent.

The National Assembly voted 215-0 in favor of the bill. Eight abstained.

The passage of the law will create legal grounds for the disclosure of an alleged offender's photograph as long as the picture is taken within 30 days of the date it is released to the public.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement that citizens' right to know has long been disregarded because of legal hurdles that required law enforcement to get a suspect's consent before taking their mugshot. The ministry also cited a survey by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission from June to July, where nearly 96 percent of respondents were in favor of enforcing mugshots.

The new rule will be promulgated by President Yoon Suk Yeol within 15 days after the passed bill is reported to the government. The law will take effect three months after the promulgation.

The same law will also broaden the scope of those subject to having their identity and picture revealed online.

Prior to the passage of the bill, only suspects whose criminal court trial was still pending could be subject to having their identity disclosed, following a decision from police. With the new rules, both the suspects and defendants -- those who are indicted and those who are being tried -- may have their identity and mugshot released.

The rule also widens the definition of serious crimes, expanding to include sexual assault against minors, treason, rebellion, deadly arson, handling of explosives, grievous bodily harm, drug-related crimes and other organized crimes, in addition to murder, human trafficking, sexual assault against adults and robbery, which already fell under the umbrella of serious crimes.