|In surveillance camera footage, a schoolgirl victim is on her hands and knees as she is kicked in the head by one of four attackers./Yonhap|
By Kim Se-jeong
A recent act of violence in Busan involving four middle school students and a fifth victim has made national headlines, triggering an unprecedented online campaign to bring justice for the victim.
An online petition at Cheong Wa Dae's website asking for adult punishment for the juvenile offenders drew more than 128,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
On Sept. 1 the 13-year-old victim was beaten and abused for more than an hour by four other schoolgirls until she was rendered unconscious. She is currently hospitalized, being treated for wounds on her lips and scalp, and for burns caused by cigarettes.
Two offenders, among the four, who are being questioned told the police that they hit her with pipes, bricks, liquor bottles and a chair.
The incident instantly became a media frenzy after a photo of the brutally beaten victim and surveillance camera footage of the incident went viral on social media outlets. In fact, the photo of the blood-smeared victim was posted by one of the offenders on the social media.
The police quoted the girls as saying they attacked the victim because she had a bad attitude, adding they will be charged with assault.
However, the victim's mother wants girls charged with attempted murder, dismissing their excuses.
She said her daughter had been receiving death threats from the girls for two months prior to the attack.
Before the threats she was beaten up by five girls, including two of the offenders, for answering a phone call from a boy with whom one of them had a relationship. The mother reported the incident to the local police, but nothing happened to them. The girls then began threatening her daughter repeatedly.
The mother condemned the police for failing to act two months ago. "The police didn't consider the incident seriously. The offenders were questioned and let go. When I reported to the police after last week's incident, they showed the same ignorance," the mother told a local news media outlet.
Besides the online petition, the incident has triggered a debate about punishment for juvenile offenders.
Under the current juvenile law, offenders younger than 18 years old are subject to lighter punishment than adults.