Crimes committed by elderly citizens have become a social problem in South Korea’s rapidly aging society, as the number of criminals aged 60 or older reached an all-time high, officials said Monday.
According to data by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, 149,957 senior citizens were charged with crimes in 2013, accounting for 7.5 percent of some 2 million total suspects that year. This marked a constant increase from 3.3 percent of the total criminal population in 2004.
In contrast, the ratios of charged criminal suspects in the 20-30 age group and 31-40 age group decreased from 18.3 percent to 14.9 percent and 25.3 percent to 18.3 percent, respectively.
Violent crimes and sexual offenses were also on the rise. About 6 percent of the violent crimes, including murder and mugging, committed in 2013 were by men and women aged 60 or older.
There were 306 sex crimes committed by those aged 71 or older in 2012, but the figure jumped to 491 in 2014, according to police data revealed by Rep. You Dae-woon of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy,
“The advances in medical science have extended the life expectancy, but the indifference toward the elderly is leading to more sex-related crimes by seniors. The government should find ways to cope with this issue before it is too late,” You said.
Crimes committed by the elderly became a hot topic after a local court issued an arrest warrant for a 82-year-old woman suspected of poisoning her neighbors with a soft drink containing pesticide last Tuesday, killing two. The incident in the rural area of North Gyeongsang Province sent shockwaves across the country as an elderly woman ― traditionally viewed as someone who should be protected ― turned out to be the key suspect.
The increase in crimes related to the elderly is a result of the increase in average age of Korea’s population, an official from the Korea Institute of Criminology said. According to Statistics Korea, the country is expected to become a “super-aged nation” ― countries where more than one in five is 65 or older ― by 2026.
As the elderly population continues to soar, more senior citizens are also becoming victims of crimes. The percentage of senior victims was 6.5 percent of the total crimes in 2004, but increased to 9.2 percent in 2013.
By Yoon Min-sik