British men sentenced for graffiti on Seoul trains
Members of the ‘SMT Crew’ in Britain who initially denied the graffiti are jailed for four months
By Jung Min-ho
An appellate court in Seoul, South Korea has upheld a four-month prison sentence for two British men, who were indicted in July on charges of vandalising trains with graffiti.
The court rejected their appeal, Monday, saying they deserve heavy punishment.
“Given that the two were convicted of the same crime in Britain in the past, the punishment isn’t too harsh,” the court said.
The brothers, 25 and 23, came to Korea, July 10. Over the next two days, they tagged “SMTS” and “SMT” on two parked Seoul subway trains with spray paint.
They were scheduled to board a flight bound for their home country July 13, but police apprehended them at a guesthouse. According to officers, they initially denied the crime and claimed they were in South Korea just to travel.
Prosecutors later indicted them on charges of trespassing on public facilities and vandalism.
They are known to be members of “SMT Crew” a notorious group of taggers founded in Britain and active across Europe.
During the trial, the two denied the connection, claiming SMT is their personal message that simply stands for “so much trouble.”
In April, five members of the group were jailed in Britain for causing 340,000 British pounds (US$445,706) of damage to trains and trams, according to media there.
Graffiti refers to street art that has been scribbled or painted illicitly, often within public view. Painting graffiti on trains is considered the “biggest status builder,” according to a source. Graffiti is rapidly developing as a legitimate art form, but for government officials in some countries, it has been a big headache.
In Korea, the issue of graffiti came into the spotlight when Park Jung-soo was fined 2 million won (US$1,800) for spray-painting a rat, which the prosecution saw as an insulting depiction of then-President Lee Myung-bak, on posters for the G-20 Summit in 2011.
Over the past few years, the number of graffiti cases has increased sharply — many of them committed by temporary foreign visitors, as the country is a favoured destination due to its poor security and light punishment, compared to other Asian countries. In 2015, police announced they would dedicate more resources to tackling such crimes.
Under the law, those who vandalise public facilities with graffiti could face up to three years in prison or a maximum fine of 5 million won (US$4,470).