The Korea Herald


Dispute over 'disrespectful' form of speech leads to knife attack

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : June 17, 2024 - 19:27

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The Korean custom of paying respect to elders through a particular form of speech took a wrong turn recently when a quarrel over a supposed disrespectful form of speech resulted in a stabbing attack.

Ulsan District Court said Monday that it sentenced a man in his 40s to two years in prison for stabbing another man in his 20s after the defendant's use of "banmal" -- an informal way of addressing another person -- caused a dispute.

The incident occurred in Ulsan in January when both the defendant and the victim were out drinking with their respective friends. The victim was out smoking by himself, when the defendant asked him, "why won't you go back in?" in banmal.

Banmal, as opposed to its respectful counterpart "jondaetmal," is conventionally used among friends, or to someone considered of a lower social status than oneself, such as someone younger. It is considered rude to use banmal when addressing strangers.

The victim took issue with the defendant’s use of banmal, which led to an argument. Though their friends came out and broke up the fight, the defendant reportedly demanded that the victim apologize. Unable to let go of the fact that he did not get the apology he thought he deserved, the defendant took a knife from his restaurant nearby and returned to stab the victim.

The victim survived the attack.

In court, the defendant maintained that he had no intent of killing the man, saying he only wanted to scare him. He also claimed to be suffering from depression and alcoholism. The court, however, shot down his claims, pointing out that he prepared the weapon after the initial quarrel.

In addition to the two-year sentence, the defendant was ordered to receive alcoholism treatment and was placed under probation for three years. The court said it took into account the fact that the defendant has no previous criminal record and has settled with the victim in handing him the lower punishment for attempted murder.