Theologically Sound. Culturally Relevant.

South Korean Stampede

Stampeding People Is Manslaughter And Should Be Punished By Law

Often times crime is one person with many victims. It is exceedingly rare for a crime to be committed by the many against the few. In South Korea, a couple of weeks ago, a massive stampede for a Halloween celebration resulted in the death of 154 people. To this day, there is no official cause of the incident in which man carelessly killed man.

Little kids know that in The Lion King the hyenas created the stampede that killed Mufasa. Thus, they know to blame Scar and the hyenas and not the wildebeest. But in Korea, there do not appear to be any hyenas.

Yet the South Korea government is treating an instance of homicide, man killing man, as a natural disaster rather than crime. This approach is denies justice to those who were slain, many of whom were foreigners.

The Seinfeld series finale features four narcissists paying the price for their selfishness. This was not the ending people wanted to see, but it was the ending the characters deserved. The idea that people filming a crime and laughing at the victim being punished perhaps was unrealistic at the time, but twenty plus years later, it is a regular reality. One survivor told the media that her friend’s suffering was being filmed at by laughing bystanders.

The Bible distinguishes between murder and manslaughter, with hatred being a the determinative difference. Deuteronomy 19 tells us: 

“Now this is the case of the manslayer who may flee there and live: when he kills his friend unintentionally, not hating him previously— as when a man goes into the forest with his friend to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down the tree, and the iron head slips off the handle and strikes his friend so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live; otherwise the avenger of blood might pursue the manslayer in the heat of his anger, and overtake him, because the way is long, and take his life, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated him previously. Therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall set aside three cities for yourself.’ (NASB95)

The axe head flying off the handle is a fare purer accident then stampeding over a bunch of people. Nonetheless, the definition of manslaughter, unintentional homicide, is met by those who participated in trampling their fellow man, as the incident was not caused by a metaphorical hyenas.

What should become of the stampeders? This I do not venture to say. The Bible states that the manslayer is underserving of death (verse 6) but it does not otherwise specify whether what consequences he faced, if at all. The Law of God remains a lamp unto our feet.

Practically speaking the thousands of people who participated in the death of 154 people cannot all stand trial and be sentenced. This speaks to the insufficiency of man rather than the impracticality of God’s law. At the end of the day, many people lost their lives for no reason, and to treat this as a natural disaster rather than homicide is morally insufficient.

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