Monday, October 19, 2009

The pace is glacial

Via Korea Beat, an October 7 Chosun Ilbo article titled "Man in his 50s receives shortest possible sentence for rape of elementary school student" is interesting. To paraphrase:

A court applied the lowest sentence to a man in his 50s accused of raping a mentally ill elementary school girl, saying "It is true that there was sexual intercourse but sexual coercion is difficult to prove," and choosing to punish him for ‘illicit sex with a minor’ instead of ‘sexual assault of a minor.’

55 year-old Mr. Kim met 11 year-old A through internet chatting, told her he’d ‘buy her something delicious’ and had sex with her five times. For a month from last July, Mr. Kim met A for sex at his house, her house, and her school (?!), and that winter she told her parents what had happened and they reported it to the police. He is sentenced to three years in prison and his identifying information will be released for five years.

Under current law a person who has sex with a child under 13 without the use of violence or threats is to receive a 3-15 year prison sentence. The court in its ruling said that the defendant took advantage of A’s mental illness (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) to have sex with her but there was no evidence of violence or intimidation used in the process, and an allowance was made for this and for him reflecting on his error.

A’s family initially stated to police that Mr. Kim had forcefully prevented her resistance by pressing on her chest, but later changed this and said that she was never forced. The court noted that A’s statements were not consistent, and that there was no evidence she was forced.


The first note I'll make is that I don't think ADHD counts as a 'mental illness' (it's classified as a behavioral disorder in English, though I don't know what distinctions are made in Korean), and don't think it would have been something Mr. Kim could have taken advantage of, though feel free to correct me if you think I'm wrong. Though the judge referred to the defendant taking "advantage of A’s mental illness", it seems it mattered little to him, as he handed out the lowest possible sentence.

Had the defendant been found guilty of 'sexual assault of a minor', he would have likely received a longer [minimum] sentence, but as there was no evidence of coercion, he was found guilty of 'illicit sex with a minor', which, is noted above is punishable by three to fifteen years in prison. Mr. Kim received the lowest possible punishment of only three years.

I'm not certain what the punishment is for sexual assault of a minor, but as noted above, sexual contact with a minor not involving threats or violence is punishable by 3-15 years in prison. As has been discussed before, sex with someone under 13 is punishable under this law, but sex with someone 13 and over is not as long as it's consensual. In the two cases discussed here, runaways had sex with men providing them with lodging, but were not paid, and thus the men were not punished. As a Korea Times article on the case in 2001 notes,
"The purpose of the youth protection law does not lie in restricting love relationships between minors and adults, but in preventing underage sex from becoming a subject of commercial deals," the judge said. "A broadened application of the law can pose a threat to people's freedom of privacy."
A similar, more recent case was reported on and it was written that
In Korea, a person is not guilty of any crime for having sex with a minor aged 13 and over unless it is paid for or forced. Sex with those under the age of 13 is punishable even if it is carried out under mutual consent.
The odd thing is that, if the aforementioned Mr. Kim had just paid 11 year old A for sex, he might have gotten a much shorter sentence. In April a man was found guilty of having paid a girl the same age as the girl in this case - eleven years old - 100,000 won to have sex with her in his car, and he received a six month sentence. According to this (.doc file) Article 5 of "The Act on Protection of Youth from Sexual Crimes Law penalizes a person who purchases sex with a juvenile with imprisonment for up to 3 years or a fine." As a first time offender, he received only a 6 month sentence (and had she been a year or two older, he might have just received a fine or suspended sentence), as the Youth Protection Act does not distinguish between those over and under 13 involved in prostitution.

As this article, titled "System 'Failing Victims of Child Sex Crimes'" notes,
Reported child sex crimes are on the increase. According to the Korea National Police Agency, the number of reports on sex crimes committed against children under 13 rose by 90 percent from 642 in 2003 to 1,220 in 2008, and the average age of victims dropped. [...]

According to a Justice Ministry' review committee, only 23.5 percent of convicted perpetrators of sexual violence against children under 13 were actually jailed between 2004 and 2007, with 70.6 percent released on probation. Lee Yoon-sang, director of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, said, "No matter how severe the stipulated sentences are against the perpetrators of child sex crimes, judges are so lenient that most of the criminals are released on appeal. In reality, some court rulings still cite unwitting commission of the crime due to intoxication as a justification for reducing sentences."
Another more recent article notes that
An increasing number of sex crimes against children and adolescents are being reported, with the ages of both victims and offenders getting younger. The number of victims of reported crimes grew from 13,446 in 2005 to 17,178 in 2008, according to data submitted to Grand National Party lawmaker You Jung-hyun of the National Assembly's Public Administration and Security Committee by the National Police Agency on Tuesday.

Of the victims, those aged 15 or younger accounted for 2,676 or 15.6 percent last year, up from 1,402 or 10.4 percent in 2005. The ratio of victims in their 20s or 30s fell slightly from 43.4 percent to 42.6 percent over the same period. "Every year, some 150 children aged under seven and 1,000 elementary school students become the victim of sexual abuse," You said.

But the sex offenders are also getting younger. Those in their 20s made up 25.2 percent in 2008, slightly down from 27.4 percent in 2005. Meanwhile, the ratio of those aged 15 or under rose from 2.4 percent in 2005 to 4.4 percent in 2008.
The Na-yeong case has brought about much discussion harsher punishment of those who prey on children, and of measures to prevent sex crimes against children. Into the fray last week came a protest by angry mothers as well:


It's the image of this protest that reminds me of another event, and of the fact that the outrage - and promise of new measures - in response to the Na-yeong case is part of an ongoing process, a manifestation of which is found in the photo below:

'Mr. President: I want to live in a world without sexual violence'

This protest came in the wake of another incident, which was reported in a Korea Herald article titled "Rape, murder of 11 year-old girl prompts belated action on policy against sex offenders" (but which cannot be linked to):
Every parent's nightmare came true last Friday. An 11 year-old girl was raped, murdered and her body burned. The man arrested and charged with the crimes is a shoe store owner from the victim’s neighborhood with nine previous convictions for sex offenses. The government is now scrambling to find ways of preventing further sex crimes. Civil organizations and political parties have shown how loopholes in laws regarding sex crimes and policing have enabled the nine-time sex offender to repeatedly offend.
I should note that he was actually guilty of one previous sex offense, and eight other offenses. This mistake was made in Korean articles as well, or was worded ambiguously.
Around 7:10 p.m. last Friday evening, the young girl went to return a video to a rental shop in Yongmun-dong, Yongsan-gu in Seoul. Kim, the 53 year old accused man who owns a shoe shop in front of the store allegedly lured her into his shop, saying he'd give her a sweet rice cake. When she obliged, he took her to the back of the store and either attempted to, or did in fact rape her. According to Kim's statement he sexually harassed her but did not rape her. As the girl resisted, he strangled her then stabbed her to death with a knife.

(From the re-enactment of the crime)
With the help of his 26 year-old son, he then moved the girl's body to a warehouse that stores farm machinery in Pocheon city, Gyeonggi Province. They poured gasoline over her body and set it alight. Her remains are currently undergoing an autopsy at the National Institute of Scientific Investigation.[...]

If convicted, it will be Kim's tenth sex-related offense.[SIC] Last June, he sexually harassed a five year-old girl in a bar. He was released with a two-year suspended sentence. It took him less than five months to repeat the crime.

Choi Gyeong-suk, head of a child abuse prevention center set up by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, recalled her consultation with the family of the five year-old girl abused by Kim. "The police told the victim's family that 'the case is a minor offense, and the offender is regretting his conduct, so you should decide on a settlement," said Choi today. "Kim was released on a suspended sentence because he had expressed regret, and that he paid a deposition," said Choi. "But far from regretting his crime, he was in fact vengeful towards the victim's family, making threats against them," she said.

"It is a serious problem that the law treats the sexual harassment of adults and children on the same level. Police, the prosecution and the courts are neglecting the fact that sexual abuse of a child can cause significant damage, compared to the sexual abuse of an adult," Choi criticized. "Sexual abuse on children significantly shocks them and although they may not even remember the incident in their childhood, it can affect them negatively later," she said. "We need a scientific evaluation system that can identify sex offenders who have psychological conditions indicating they are prone to committing further offenses," she added.

On Monday, The Justice Ministry said it is stepping up measures to curb sex crimes by placing abusers under nighttime house arrest. The ministry said it will also expand the use of a 'voice surveillance system,' that restricts convicted criminals from going out within a certain time period.

Criminals under this form of house arrest are required to answer an automatically wired phone call from the Korea Probation and Parole Office every night. If they fail to do so, they must visit their local KPPO branch later to justify any absences. If they miss three calls, they will be returned to prison. This system is currently applied to juveniles on parole.[...]

The court is authorized to order repeat offenders of crimes that involve the sex trade, nocturnal burglaries, muggings, theft and sexual abuse of minors to stay at home from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. over a period ranging from three months to a year.[...] Only a fraction of adult sex-abusers are currently under these restrictions, justice ministry officials said. Last year, 97 percent of some 2,800 people under the ban were juvenile offenders, and only 4.2 percent were sex abusers, according to government statistics.

Political parties today argued over eight legislative bills tackling sex crimes, currently under the consideration of the Legislation & Judiciary Committee at the National Assembly. The ruling Uri party insisted that penalties against sex offenders must be strengthened while opposition parties argued for new measures to curb repeat sex crimes, such as the electronic bracelet system. Lee Eun-young of the Uri party on the Legislation & Judiciary committee said "a bill to increase penalties against child abusers is currently under discussion but we are making slow progress. We need the GNP's cooperation to effectively pass the bill."[...]

Grand National Party lawmaker Park Se-hwan today suggested introducing a 'chemical castration' policy for sex offenders. Under this, chemicals are injected to incapacitate the genitals of offenders. "If the electronic bracelets legislation currently being discussed at the Legislation & Judiciary committee cannot be passed, then we will consider introducing chemical castration. The castration policy has been adopted in some European nations. We are currently collecting examples of other legislation," said Park.[...]

The electronic bracelet system, proposed by the GNP last May, would oblige sex offenders to be tagged, thus restricting their activities and increasing surveillance of them. Human rights groups have opposed the scheme on the grounds that it would severely infringe the rights of sex offenders. Similar systems are used in the United States, Britain, France and other countries.[...]

Aha! a sex education & counseling center for young people, the Seoul Young Women's Christian Association and five other civil organizations held a press conference today to demand long term measures for preventing sex crimes including disclosing the identities of sex offenders.

"We have to enforce laws to protect young people from sex crimes," they said. "The human rights of sex offenders and their families may be important, but because the rate of repeat offences is so high we need to disclose specific information about the sex offenders, in addition to establishing long-term measures to inspect, manage and prevent further crimes," they said.
You might be depressed to realize that this crime - and the calls for stronger measures against sex criminals who target children - took place on February 17, 2006, or three and a half years ago (the Herald article is from Feb. 21, and a similar Joongang Ilbo article is here). One of the earlier, easier measures taken?
Lawmakers also designated February 22, the date of the funeral of a child who was sexually harassed and murdered in Yongsan, as “Child Sex Crimes Awareness Day.”

Another Herald article on the 25th revealed that sex crime suspects would face detention:
The prosecution yesterday said it will keep all sex crime suspects in detention while they are investigated as part of efforts to crackdown on increasing sex crime against children. The move goes against current practices where the prosecution generally does not detain suspects under investigation. This is in line with protecting human rights and the principle of treating suspects as innocent until proven guilty.

The government and the ruling Uri party also held an emergency conference yesterday to explore how preventative measures to combat sexual offenses can be enforced and discussed strategies including revealing photographs, personal information and the addresses of sex offenders.[...]

In the government-ruling party meeting, Gender Equality Minister of Jang Ha-jin, and Police Chief Lee Taek-soon among others discussed the possibility of publicly disclosing the identities of sexual offenders so that communities can be wary of them. They discussed such measures also be applied to first-time offenders of children and youths.

For repeat offenders, the government and the ruling party suggested restricting where they can live, and putting signs on their front doors to warn residents of where they are living. They also discussed removing the statute of limitations that prevents the prosecution of sex offenses after a certain period of time.

Meanwhile, the Grand National Party floor leader Lee Jae-oh said the party will integrate all bills concerning the prevention and punishment of sex crimes into one single law. [...] "We will hold a public hearing next week to discuss measures to introduce electronic bracelets or chemical methods of inducing impotence in sex offenders," he said
Among some of the new measures, nighttime curfews were imposed on paroled sex offenders, and in May 2006, there were more new proposals:
The National Youth Commission will announce today a proposal to release the personal information and photographs of people convicted of sexually assaulting children or teenagers to residents of the county, district and city where the offenders reside. Under current laws, the personal information of people convicted of sexual assault more than once is available only to the victim, the victims’ parents or guardians and the principals of schools.

Under the proposal, which the Commission will submit to the National Assembly, people convicted of raping children younger than the age of 13 could be imprisoned more than seven years, longer than the current five years. The statute of limitations in which convictions of offenders could be sought would be extended. Under the plan, sexual offenders would also be banned from approaching or meeting their victim and a parent who has assaulted his own child would lose custody.
The statute of limitations mentioned above was not to come into effect until the victim was 24. In June 2006 the Youth Protection Commission banned sex offenders from educational jobs:
Under laws instituted on June 30, 2006 to limit the employment of convicted pedophiles, people found guilty of molesting, sexually assaulting or having sex with children or producing or distributing child pornography are banned from working at places including child welfare centers, theaters, museums, sports facilities and resorts. The ban lasts for 10 years from the date of the conviction.
The above quote is from an article three years later noting that several sex offenders had been caught working in such places anyways. According to this article, the "legislature approved a revision of the child welfare law on Aug. 29, which states that sexual violence prevention education is a requirement for child care facilities, kindergartens, elementary and middle schools."

The same article, from September 2006, has some sobering statistics:
Experts said the high recidivism rate of sex crimes is a serious issue. Of the sex crimes reported in the 2004 Police White Paper, 67.5 percent were committed by repeat offenders. Of the 5,425 rapists arrested in 2003, 3,664 were recidivists, the police said.

The Korean Institute of Criminal Justice Policy said the high recidivism rate of sex crimes against minors is particularly serious. The institute said 83.4 percent of the 7,200 people convicted of sexual crimes against minors, defined by the law as people younger than 19, were repeat offenders.[...]

[O]ther courts nationwide were not much different. The nation's district courts handed down suspended sentences to 58 percent of sex offenders in 2002, 57 percent in 2003 and 56 percent in 2004, Mr. Seol said in his 140-page-long analysis of Korean courts.
Discussion of the use of electronic bracelets for sex offenders led nowhere, and it was not until it was discovered that 10 year-old Lee Hye-jin and 8 year-old Wu Ye-seul were raped, murdered, and dismembered on Christmas Day 2007 that such bracelets, along with other measures, were once again proposed.


(From the re-enactment of the crime)
The Justice Ministry said it will seek to allow the death penalty to be applied to anyone who rapes and murders a child under the age of 13. Currently, the punishment for such crimes against children is a maximum of life in prison, the same as for adults. The new bill will tentatively be named after the two girls killed.[...]

If the bill is approved, a person convicted of killing and sexually assaulting a child under 13 would be sentenced to either the death penalty or a lifetime prison term, Kim said. Under the current criminal codes, such a crime is punishable by between 10 years in prison and a life sentence. The ministry said it wants a child sex offender to be jailed without the possibility of parole to reduce the recurrence of such crimes.

The ministry also seeks to establish a treatment program for sex offenders who have mental problems, including pedophiles, even after they complete their prison terms. They will be reviewed routinely and must show improvement before being released, the ministry said.

Starting in October, a child sex offender ruled to have the potential to repeat the crime will be required to wear an electronic anklet to track his or her whereabouts for up to five years.

The ministry also said it will create a genetic information database of child sexual offenders to heighten the efficiency of the investigation and trial. A special task force will also be created to handle child kidnapping and sexual crimes, and to respond to the cases around the clock.
As this article points out, the use of electronic bracelets to monitor the location of sex offenders began last September and could be applied to "offenders who have abused children aged 13 or younger or repeat sex offenders" for up to ten years after their release from prison. It was this KBS news show on September 22 of this year, looking at the first year of the use of electronic bracelets, that broke the story of the Na-yeong case and the lenient sentence the her attacker received, which has led to netizens, the media, and lawmakers discussing sex crimes against children and the need for stronger measures (some of which seem ineffectual). It seems, however, that the government has not diverted many resources to protect children:

When discussing strengthening punishments of those commit sex crimes against children, Democratic Party Rep. Choi Yeong-hui points first to the Ministry’s complicated prevention measures.[...]

“A prevention budget is needed, but do you know how much next year’s budget for preventing sex crimes against children and teenagers is? Next year it will decrease 17.7% to W700 million. The entire budget for the welfare of teens is down 33%.”

Choi, in addition to proposing three bills aimed at foreign English teachers in June, also proposed five bills aimed at Korean teachers at that time, but which did not get much press, and it seems she is using the Na-yeong case to draw attention to sex crimes by (Korean) teachers. More disturbing is the fact that, after two high-profile rape and murder cases of children (and another in Jeju-do in 2007 that no one seemed too concerned about), and comments like this -
“Any crime is unacceptable, but a crime against a child is particularly heinous and intolerable,” Prime Minister Han Seung-soo said at a cabinet meeting yesterday. “We must do our best to prevent the crimes and arrest the suspects.
- the budget for prevention of child sex crimes has been cut. Anyone hoping for decisive action three-and-a-half years ago has probably been disappointed, and I see no reason to think that this current uproar will do more than to edge the process a little further forward for awhile, until the next appropriate victim appears.

5 comments:

Roboseyo said...

Awesome post, matt. thanks for researching it and putting it out there. care to put up a teaser and a link at Hub of Sparkle?

Brian said...

Yes, excellent work as always.

Brian said...

Stuff like this would make excellent material for the Herald, or any other publication that'd have it.

youseok said...

Well done Matt. Here is my shorter version. Http://www.youseok.wordpress.com

3gyupsal said...

This is an amazing piece of work, good job. A very disturbing read, but I'm glad you put it out there.