SEOUL, South Korea — When news of frequent shooting incidents comes out of the United States, Koreans let out a small sigh of relief for living in a place where gun ownership is strictly illegal.
Military service for Korean men is mandatory, but that is probably the only time a regular civilian will have a chance to hold a gun.
In South Korea, only government-authorized personnel could own or carry guns. After taking a physical exam, permits are handed out to very limited number of people: Body guards of the president or foreign heads of states, firearm workers at industrial mining or construction sites, certified hunters or Olympic athlete shooters.
When a citizen is caught selling or buying guns – produced in Korea for export purpose only – penalty is up to 10 years in prison or up to $18,000 in fines. Even possessing a toy gun ‘that resembles a real gun’ is strictly prohibited.
In the past five years, a total of 50 cases of gun-related crimes leading to death or injury were reported. Many were accidents, not intentional murder attempts.