Frances Mao*1 “'Don't Ask Why': South Korea grapples with back-to-back 'Mudjima' stabbings”


In South Korea, they are known as "Don't Ask Why" or Mudjima crimes - inexplicable acts of violence targeting strangers, driven by no personal link to victims or obvious motive.

While they've been called Mudjima by the public for years, it was only in 2022 that South Korean police officially designated such crimes as a distinct category: "Abnormal Motive Crimes".

With specific definitions and a task force set up to combat them, the move appeared to show authorities finally taking the crimes seriously. In the first half of this year, police recorded 18 Mudjima acts.


While overall data shows no rise in violent crime - South Korea last year in fact recorded its lowest rates in a decade - the recent stabbings have driven the perception that Mudjima acts are more common, and society more dangerous.

It has even led to some commentators making comparisons with the US, with online remarks: "It's the American mentality that's going viral in South Korea" and "OMG South Korea has become the USA of Asia".


What drove greater anxiety among the public after last week's stabbing was the wave of threats that popped up, vowing copycat attacks.

Online posts stated specific timings and locations, and some even named the gender of the victims they wanted to kill. One person vowed to "kill as many people as possible."

Although many dismissed them as the work of juveniles and attention seekers, they succeeded in unnerving people.

On social media, users posted warnings for the weekend of 4-6 August: "Please avoid these areas in South Korea" was one TikTok video which drew more than 300,000 views across Asia.

"Go ahead and screenshot this- here's a list of public stabbings on the weekend," the host, a North American expat in Seoul, says in the video. Several subway stations were named as attack spots - as well nightlife areas, an amusement park and a women's university stop.

"Be careful, be mindful of surroundings and stay safe out there," they say.

In response, police mounted a "special enforcement" operation for the weekend, dispatching thousands more officers to public sites. They were told to stop and search "suspicious-looking" people- at least one person was arrested after he was seen carrying knives in public.