Experts divided on whether addiction had role in brutal murder of toddler

In this still from CCTV footage, a man who confessed to killing his infant son is seen leaving his apartment in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, Sunday, carrying the garbage bag supposedly containing the child's body.
PHOTO: Experts divided on whether addiction had role in brutal murder of toddler

The Daegu District Court on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for a 22-year-old surnamed Jeong, a day after he confessed to police that he suffocated his 28-month-old son to death.

As the nation was shocked with the brutality of the crime, experts are debating the underlying factors.

Jeong, who was known as a serious game addict, told the police he committed the murder because he grew angry at the child for not going to sleep as he prepared to go to an Internet cafe to play video games. He then put the child's body in a trash bag and abandoned it outside.

His crime was uncovered Sunday after the child's body was found in a garbage bag in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province.

Jeong, who arrived at the court for questioning, said he was "sorry" for his deceased son, but left no comment on whether he thought he was really a game addict.

Some pointed fingers at gaming as the reason why the man committed the heinous crime.

"Alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, and excessive dependence on games all make people do things that seem incomprehensible to most people," said Kwak Ho-sun, a Daegu-based psychiatrist. "In the case of game addicts, they tend to forget or deny reality. As in Jeong's case, they end up doing absurd things."

But others cautioned against pinning the whole blame on gaming, and said a combination of social causes is responsible for rampant child abuse.

Pyo Chang-won, a former professor at the National Police Academy and expert in criminology, said game addiction is hardly the direct cause of Jeong's crime.

"The man was unable to restrain his fury at the crying baby. Behind that anger, he had a strong inferiority complex, rage and discontent toward society, along with other factors that had nothing to do with games," Pyo said.

Pyo added, however, that Jeong was obsessively dependent on games, which may have hindered his ability to cope with reality.

"We understand the potential hazards of game addiction, but we shouldn't say 'the game addiction drove him to kill his son,'" said an official from the National Child Protection Agency.

He also said the government needs to step up protective measures in order to prevent future violence against children.

Local officials who are in charge of child protection tend to put the needs of parents or adults before children because they do not have voting rights.

"The budget for child protection often gets nudged aside by the budget for the elderly or the handicapped, mainly because the latter can exercise voting rights," he said.

Experts also pointed at a lack of awareness toward child safety; for example, leaving children unattended at home is hardly regarded as a form of abuse.

On Friday, a 36-year-old woman in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang Province was sentenced to 10 years in prison for beating her 8-year-old stepdaughter, which ultimately resulted in her death. Another woman in Ulsan was sentenced to 15 years in prison for beating her 8-year-old daughter to death the same day.

The seemingly mild punishment for the crimes have infuriated Koreans and left them demanding stronger penalties.