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It is uncomfortable to see. The gapjil of the super-rich in South Korea is still going on today just as it always has. (Gapjil is a Korean term that refers to the abuse of power by someone against a person in a weaker position.)

It is not a new social phenomenon. It is also not new to recognize the new form of gapjil depicted in the media. However, it is still uncomfortable to see.

I learned about the “new” gapjil a few days ago. The new form of gapjil forces subordinates to slaughter chickens, forces them to dye their hair in various colors, and prevents them from urinating after drinking alcohol. One contemporary practitioner of this ancient art is also accused of bringing a college professor to his office and forcing him to eat sputum.

The teacher who taught me this new gapjil “skill” is Yang Jin-ho, president of Korea Future Technology, whose assets are estimated at around 100 billion won (US$89 million). He was filmed the berating and beating a former employee.

It is very uncomfortable to look at. It is uncomfortable to look at such a leader. Yang Jin-ho is typically a leader who lacks empathy. He was in a position to lead the employees and run the company, but he did not have any colleagues or subordinates around him. Instead, made people his “toys” for him. If he did not like the toys he bought, he would replace them with new ones.

He seems to have had a great deal of fun playing with his toys. But the problem is that the toys were people, equal in dignity to himself. It is a waste of time discussing the qualities and morality he should have as a leader because he is not qualified to lead in the first place. Before I can recognize him as a leader, he will first need to qualify as a member of society.

Although we cannot generalize about all the cases in South Korea, the country’s courts have been weak in the face of the tyranny and crimes of the wealthy

I felt very uncomfortable seeing the news that a South Korean court was giving Yang Jin-ho the slight punishment of a few months’ jail time. All Koreans will also feel uncomfortable hearing the news.

To date, the decisions of the South Korean judiciary on the crimes committed by the super-rich have fallen short of people’s expectations. The small fines and sentences that the courts impose on the rich have always been controversial. Although we cannot generalize about all the cases in South Korea, the country’s courts have been weak in the face of the tyranny and crimes of the wealthy.

Likewise, I am concerned that the punishment meted out by the South Korean court to Yang Jin-ho does not reflect the feelings of the Korean people. Someone may argue that sentencing is entirely based on the rule of law, not the feelings of the people. Yes, that’s right. I will not deny it. However, as time goes by and the spirit of the times changes, so does the jurisprudence. The National Assembly should provide a forum for discussion. Parliament is a very important window for improving it.

Looking back on past gapjil incidents in South Korea, those with money and power have tended to treat the rest of their people as their slaves. For those who live only for money, “slavery” is nothing more than a toy. The concept of human dignity and empathy does not exist in the first place to them. If this concept did not exist to them from the beginning, then we should teach them from now on: “Money and power can never exist above human dignity.” This simple proposition is a fact shared by all the people except him.

For criminal offenders of human dignity, a more rigorous and aggressive standard of law should be applied. The super-rich people, or chaebol, should be no exception

For criminal offenders of human dignity, a more rigorous and aggressive standard of law should be applied. The super-rich people, or chaebol, should be no exception. (Chaebol is a Korean term that refers to a large, family-owned business conglomerate.)

I repeat: For criminal offenders of human dignity, a more rigorous and aggressive standard of law should be applied. The super-rich people or chaebol should be no exception. The fact that they have contributed to the economy of South Korea and the fact of their crimes against human dignity should be discussed separately. The judiciary must prove that common truth, “All men are equal under the eyes of the law,” so that the people will no longer feel uncomfortable.

Gapjil of the wealthy in Korean society and judicial judgments corresponding to it are still making me uncomfortable.

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Chang H. KIM

Chang H. KIM is a research fellow at The Cairns Institute, Australia. He serves as Director of the Korean Association of Human Resource Development in South Korea. He is a frequent contributor to leading media outlets in South Korea. He tweets at twitter.com/ChangKIM_PhD