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Public on high alert over child sex crimes

Posted September. 04, 2012 08:46,   


A mother with a daughter in Korea might say nowadays, “Let me double check if my daughter is safely sleeping” or “Let’s check the door though it`s locked.” Public fears over safety have shot up even on neighborhood streets and alleys as a man who confessed to raping a 7-year-old girl in Naju, South Jeolla Province, has been found to be a guy next door. Mothers with daughters in kindergarten even say they want their girls to grow up as quickly as possible.

Police on Monday announced an “emergency campaign of fighting crime” for a month and the heavy mobilization of personnel and equipment at its disposal to prevent sex crimes and protect public safety. Officers pledged to deploy ample forces in residential areas of the working class and neighborhoods with studio apartments that have a high concentration of female residents. Nevertheless, it is uncertain how long police with limited staff can guard people in all neighborhood thoroughfares and alleys. The National Policy Agency also announced a plan to establish a “child pornography response team,” a control tower to crack down on child pornography, and intensively crack down on obscene materials online. When a Dong-A Ilbo reporter visited an Internet café exclusively for adults in Seoul`s Sillim-dong neighborhood, child pornography was seen playing in more than 10 rooms each measuring 3.3 square meters. Illegal pornography is prevalent in Korean society but exactly what have police been doing so far about this problem?

In his regular radio address, President Lee Myung-bak said, “Since sex offenders are highly likely to commit their crimes again, the government will proactively release their profiles to the public.” This is little different from his 2008 statement saying, “Chances are high that child sex offenders will strike again, and we must expand the degree to which their profiles are released and isolate them from society as much as possible.” He said this soon after an elementary school student was brutally raped on her way to school in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province in 2008. Where are the “stern countermeasures” President Lee pressed the government to introduce against sex crimes? At the time, the ruling Grand National Party (now the Saenuri Party) also pledged to revise criminal laws to raise the prison terms of child sex offenders to 20, 30 and even 50 years by removing limits on prison sentences. Cho Doo-soon, the culprit in the Ansan rape, got just 12 years in prison, however. Whenever a gruesome sex crime occurs, the government scrambles to announce the same old responses but law enforcement and police instantly return to their normal complacency when public anger subsides.

Authorities must care for the lives and human rights of the victims before considering those of sex offenders. A report suggests that in the U.S., child sex crimes declined 79 percent after sterner punishment was imposed. More than a year has passed since chemical castration was introduced in Korea, but just one convict has been ordered to use it. The use of electronic monitoring anklets also needs to be expanded to retroactively include sex offenders who committed crimes prior to the enactment of related laws.