The Baltimore Sun reported that “Auto thefts are on pace to more than double the total from last year, as reports through the first eight months of 2023 are already up 88% compared to all of 2022.” In 2023, the number of auto theft crimes in the USA showed an exponential increase. Kia and Hyundai, which are representative Korean automobile companies, were also no exceptions. Moreover, a few cities in the USA are suing Kia and Hyundai, claiming that they encouraged the crime wave of auto theft. 

In most cases, cars possess a device called an electronic immobilizer, which disables the engine to start without its rightful key. However, both Kia and Hyundai lack these electronic immobilizers, causing an increase in auto theft crimes, according to the numbers of analysts. Consequently, Kia and Hyundai are still struggling with a huge financial burden and reputational decline, however, it is hard to conclude that the whole fault lies on them. It’s time to see beyond the ostensible causes. 

TikTok taught teenagers how to steal automobiles. ‘Kia boys’, literally is a term used to indicate a TikTok challenge where people uploaded a video of them stealing Kia cars, with a detailed process and instructions. This ‘Kia Boys’ challenge rapidly spread out throughout the internet, causing a significant increase in auto theft rate in the USA, especially for Kia and Hyundai who were more vulnerable to the theft, due to the absence of electronic immobilizers. Many experts analyzed that such a high rate of auto theft against Kia and Hyundai would have been affected by the viral trend in TikTok instead of their own technical issues.

Tiktok VS Kia and Hyundai

Now, it is still questionable whether the responsibility lies on Kia and Hyundai or the TikTok trend itself. The ultimate answer is that the accountability lies on TikTok. Before getting into the reasons why TikTok is responsible, the reason Kia and Hyundai are not responsible is this: the presence of electronic immobilizer has no correlation with the auto theft frequency. 

Similar to the case of Kia and Hyundai, Honda and Chevrolet cars reached a high theft rate in 2023 in America. However, their auto theft rate was high, despite the fact that they both possess electronic immobilizers. The whole situation validates the fact that the presence of electronic immobilizers does not have any correlation to the security of the car or the prevention of auto theft. This case exemplifies that Kia and Hyundai are experiencing a high auto theft rate only because of their viral TikTok trend, not their absence of an electrical immobilizer. 

Who is the criminal?

The New York Post reported, “In Argentina in January, 12-year-old Milagros Soto died attempting the deadly trend with a makeshift noose — a stunt that was reportedly caught on camera.” The black-out challenge which killed the 12-year-old boy; the Skull Breaker challenge, a challenge purposely tripping someone over to break their skull; the Penny Challenge, a challenge squeezing a penny into a small space of an electric socket to cause an electric shock and fire. Including the ‘Kia Boys’ challenge, numerous risky and detrimental challenges started on TikTok, and still are trending widely. These challenges are consistently claiming a number of lives and injuries.  Not only harming themselves, but these challenges are significantly damaging the innocent public.

TikTok are the ones who explicitly showed how-to videos to the users, and the ones who directly practiced them are the users of TikTok. The ultimate question is this: Who is responsible for the harm? The debate regarding the responsibility for societal calamities derived from TikTok does not seem to be completed.

Woojin Jang

Content Creator


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