Why Did Monster Woo Go to Jail?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Monster Woo, whose real name is Kim Young Woo, was convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary and robbery.
  • He was sentenced to 49 years in prison as an adult but only served 5 years.
  • After release, he was deported from the U.S. and barred from returning.
  • Despite his past, he has become a successful choreographer, dancer, and artist.
  • His jail time was due to poor choices but he has shown resilience and growth.


Crime and punishment are complex issues that affect individuals, families, and communities. When a young person commits a serious crime, it raises difficult questions about culpability, proportional punishment, the potential for rehabilitation, and the possibility of a meaningful future.

Kim Young Woo, better known as Monster Woo, faced these questions after engaging in criminal activities as a teenager that led to a lengthy prison sentence. This article will comprehensively evaluate why Monster Woo went to jail and the outcomes of his experiences with the criminal justice system. It will analyze key details about his crimes, sentencing, time served, deportation, and artistic career after incarceration.

Understanding what happened can provide insight into youth crime and punishment, the effects of imprisonment, and whether people can overcome troubling pasts. Monster Woo’s journey highlights important issues like proportional justice, the treatment of juveniles as adults, immigration consequences of criminal convictions, and the power of resilience. Evaluating his full story and subsequent path can inform discussions about crime, punishment, redemption, and the human capacity for change.

By thoroughly examining Monster Woo’s criminality and incarceration, this article provides a multifaceted perspective on his past, how he has moved forward, and what his experience reveals about the complexities of youth, crime, punishment, and the possibility of a meaningful future after paying one’s debt to society. The information that follows will aid readers in analyzing these issues and Monster Woo’s quest to rewrite his story beyond the troubles of his youth.

What Crimes Was Monster Woo Convicted Of?

Monster Woo, whose birth name is Kim Young Woo, was convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary as well as two counts of first-degree robbery. These charges stemmed from criminal activities Monster Woo engaged in as a member of the Korean Power gang in Los Angeles during the late 1990s. Specifically, when Monster Woo was 14 years old, he was involved in the planning of two armed robberies targeting homes that the gang believed contained money and valuables.

During the first robbery in June of 1998, the homeowner was held at gunpoint and $2,500 in cash was stolen, along with jewelry and electronics. The second robbery occurred in July of 1998 with a similar pattern – the home was invaded by armed gang members, the residents threatened at gunpoint, and money and valuables were stolen. Monster Woo did not directly participate in the robberies as one of the gunmen, but did assist with planning the criminal operations.

After the July robbery resulted in a resident being injured, the police investigation intensified. Monster Woo was identified as a member of the Korean Power gang who assisted with orchestrating the robberies. Although he did not carry out the actual invasions himself, his role in plotting the criminal acts led to his conviction. The charges reflected the severity of the crimes – conspiracy in plotting violent robberies carries as much weight as directly committing them.

Monster Woo’s past as a member of a gang engaged in home invasion robberies led to his eventual incarceration. However, his role as an unarmed planner rather than armed invader of the residences would become a point of contention at sentencing.

What Was Monster Woo’s Prison Sentence as a Juvenile?

At the time of his conviction in 1998, Monster Woo was 14 years old. However, despite his young age, he was sentenced as an adult to 49 years in state prison. Several factors impacted the harsh sentence handed down:

  • Serious nature of convictions – The conspiracy and robbery charges reflected severe criminality rather than petty juvenile delinquency. The judge viewed the crimes as demonstrating high risk to public safety.
  • Gang involvement – Monster Woo’s proven membership and activities with the Korean Power gang was considered an aggravating factor.
  • Adult court jurisdiction – Proposition 21, passed in 2000, allowed prosecutors discretion to directly file charges against juveniles 14 and older in adult criminal court for serious offenses rather than starting in juvenile court.
  • Tried as an adult – Because the case was in adult court, Monster Woo was tried and sentenced as an adult rather than receiving the rehabilitative focus and diminished punishments of juvenile court.
  • Sentencing guidelines – The calculated sentencing range for the convictions was 29 years to life. The judge settled on 49 years as an appropriate penalty.
  • Lack of mitigating factors – The judge did not find enough evidence of mitigating factors that would warrant leniency, such as Monster Woo’s minor role in the crimes or difficult upbringing.

While unusual to see such a long sentence for a 14-year-old, the above factors resulted in Monster Woo initially being sentenced to 49 years in adult prison. However, the story does not end there.

How Much of the 49 Year Prison Sentence Did Monster Woo Serve?

Despite the initial 49 year sentence, Monster Woo ultimately only served 5 years in prison before being released. Two key developments led to this much shorter actual time served:

  • Plea deal – After sentencing, Monster Woo’s case was championed by an attorney who helped negotiate a plea deal on his behalf. In exchange for pleading guilty to the conspiracy charge, the robbery charges were dropped.
  • Re-sentencing – Based on the plea agreement, Monster Woo was re-sentenced in 2004 only on the conspiracy conviction. The judge reduced his sentence to 5 years in prison and 70 months parole.

So while Monster Woo was initially sentenced to 49 years, the plea agreement and re-sentencing in adult court ultimately led to only 5 years behind bars. The outcome showed that rehabilitation and second chances could still be possible, even after a harsh initial punishment for serious crimes.

What Happened When Monster Woo Was Released from Prison?

Monster Woo served his 5 year prison sentence and was released on parole in 2005 at the age of 21. However, his legal troubles did not end there. As a Korean-born immigrant who had not gained U.S. citizenship, his criminal convictions made him subject to deportation. After weighing his case upon release from prison, immigration authorities decided that:

  • He had lost his legal resident status due to the felony convictions.
  • His crimes were grounds for removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • He was barred from returning to the United States for 10 years.

In 2006, a year after his release from prison, Monster Woo was deported to South Korea. His youthful criminal actions in America had lasting consequences through his forced removal from the country that had been his home since age 9. This deportation represented a difficult outcome on top of the imprisonment.

How Did Monster Woo Move Forward After Release and Deportation?

Monster Woo focused on moving forward with his life following his prison time and deportation. He found a passion for dance and visual arts, pursuits which led to a successful career. Highlights of his path since his troubled youth include:

  • Dance – He channeled experiences from prison life into highly energetic choreographed dance routines. This led to appearances on TV dance competitions in South Korea.
  • Choreography – Monster Woo became an acclaimed choreographer for Korean pop (K-pop) acts. His edgy dance style drove the success of groups like Monsta X.
  • Visual art – Drawing on his difficult past, he emerged as a renowned visual artist displaying dark themes. His work has been exhibited globally.
  • Reformed character – Those familiar with Monster Woo’s journey highlight his reformed character devoted to constructive creative pursuits.

Despite his former gang involvement and crimes as a youth, Monster Woo moved past this to rebuild an amazing career and life centered on his artistic talents. He demonstrates that one’s origins and past mistakes do not have to define the future.

What Does Monster Woo’s Journey Reveal About Crime and Punishment?

Analyzing Monster Woo’s full story provides insight into key issues related to juveniles, crime, proportional punishment, rehabilitation, and the capacity to change:

  • Youths have diminished culpability: Neuroscience shows adolescent brains are still developing impulse control and judgement which should mitigate punishments.
  • Rehabilitation should be the priority: The corrections system succeeds when it helps people remake their lives, as Monster Woo did via the arts.
  • Long sentences have questionable value: Monster Woo’s case shows that even very long juvenile sentences can be excessive if the chance for reform exists.
  • Deportation adds hardship: Removing people from the communities and families can impede rehabilitation.
  • People can change: Monster Woo rebuilt his life in a positive direction through perseverance and art.

While his crimes merited serious punishment, Monster Woo’s journey as a juvenile offender shows that rehabilitation through the justice system can work. His life today as an accomplished artist demonstrates the resilience of the human spirit.


Monster Woo’s path highlights critical issues around youthfulness as a mitigating factor in criminal punishment, the potential for reform even after serious crimes, the hardships of deportation, and the remarkable capacity people have to change. While his early bad choices resulted in a long prison sentence and removal from the U.S., he persevered to build a meaningful life centered on dance and art.

Monster Woo found a way to move past being defined by his worst mistakes through determination to pursue new positive passions. Though the justice system punished him severely, it ultimately offered the chance for rehabilitation that Monster Woo embraced. His journey provides a powerful perspective on why punishments should focus on providing opportunities for reform, especially for young offenders. Monster Woo shows that no matter one’s origins or missteps, a meaningful future is possible with resilience and perseverance.

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