| In 1994, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl, Megan Kanka, was raped and killed by a man living across the street. The man was a twice-convicted sexual offender but people in the neighborhood were not aware of it. The incident spurred public uproar that demanded for opening up personal information of child sex offenders. Two years later, a Megan`s Law was passed requiring law enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding convicted sex offenders. At the California State sexual criminals registry website, 74,890 people are currently opened to public viewing.
In 2010, Korea also made a system to make information available to the public regarding convicted sexual offenders against teenagers. After starting as a convicted sexual offender notification system (www.sexoffender.go.kr), the offenders scope widened after the incident of a convicted rapist and murder Kim Kil-tae. As public opinion aroused to include sexual offenders against adults, those convicted of adult sexual crimes were added in April 2011. The following year, Kim Jeom-deok who killed an elementary school student in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, was found to have record of having been convicted for sexually offending adults. Accordingly, the government opened up personal information of criminals who had committed sexual crimes even before the law took effect. This was a strict system equal to that of the U.S.
Opening sexual criminals` information is a controversial issue. Those opposing to public viewing say it is a dual punishment. In 2003, the Constitutional Court of Korea ruled that the law is constitutional saying the purpose of promoting public interest of juvenile sex protection takes priority over infringement on personal rights and private life limitations on those whose personal information be made public. Five ruled it unconstitutional and four constitutional, but was decided constitutional as it failed to meet the quorum (six).
An 11th grade son of a father who assaulted a junior high school girl recently committed suicide after his father`s personal information was made public. His suicide note showed the pains and sadness of the family. The father`s wrongdoings cannot be defended but they may not be a heavy crime so as to open personal information to the public. Amid rising sexual crimes, the government has steadily strengthened systems to allow personal information open to public viewing. However, it is time for a social discussion on what level criminals` information should be opened to public.
Editorial Writer Chung Seong-hui (firstname.lastname@example.org)