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Teenage boy confesses to mistakenly stealing bike to take care of siblings

Feb. 26, 2024 - 11:50 By Yoon Min-sik
(Herald DB)

South Korean police on Sunday said a high school student who recently confessed to stealing a bicycle did so in order to support his brothers and sisters, who he has been taking care of due to his mother's illness.

Police said that various state organizations have decided to provide financial aid to the boy's family, who they said had been in the blind spot of the country's welfare system.

According to the Osan Police Station in Gyeonggi Province, a report about a stolen bicycle was submitted to officers on Nov. 18 last year. But even before the investigation began, the boy came to police and confessed to taking the bike.

He said he had mistakenly thought that it was his friend's bike that he was borrowing, and returned it after learning the mistake. "I was going home after work and it was late. I was in a rush because I had to feed my six younger brothers and sisters," he told the police.

Police found that the boy was the oldest of his seven siblings and that he was working at a diner near his home to help his family financially. The boy had taken on the role of the primary caregiver for the family, due to his father working most of the time and his mother being admitted to hospital with heart and lung diseases.

The family of nine lived in a rented apartment that was 46 square meters in size, and had been excluded from most state benefits because of the car they had. Those applying for welfare benefits must include the value of their car in their asset assessment, which the government in 2024 changed to exclude cars with engines that have combustion chambers smaller than 2,000 cubic centimeters.

The father explained that the car was essential in taking his wife to the hospital and taking care of his many children.

In light of the news, the city government of Osan, Osan Police Station, and other organizations including the regional community center, youth center and public health center have decided to provide financial aid for the family.

"The boy thanked the police and expressed his wish to learn skills related to operating heavy equipment in order to support his family," the police said.

The boy was given a suspended fine of 100,000 won ($75) by the court, which suspends the punishment being implemented for a two-year probation period, with no further punishment if the subject does not commit an additional felony during the period.