(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 a 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 — the 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.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Barbie Latza Nadeau, Tim Hume and Vasco Cotovio, CNN
Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN