At an appeals court in the southwestern city of Gwangju in 2006, a school official was convicted of raping a 13-year-old deaf girl and sentenced to one year in prison. When the verdict came, an outraged middle-aged man, also deaf, let out an incomprehensible cry from the galley, signaling frantically with sign language.It goes on to offer some distressing statistics:
“It was clear that the man was shouting, ‘This is wrong! This is wrong!”’ Lee Ji-won, a newspaper intern, wrote in her blog later that day under the subject line, “I saw the foul underside of our society.”
The man was forcibly removed for disrupting the courtroom. And that might have been the end of it. Except that the intern’s blog inspired a best-selling author, Gong Ji-young, to write a novel based on the sexual assaults at the Inhwa School for the hearing impaired, the school’s attempts to conceal the abuses and the victims’ struggle for justice.
Now, a film based on that novel — “Dogani,” or “The Crucible” — has roiled South Korea.
The number of sexual crimes against mentally or physically disabled people reported to the police was 320 last year, up from 199 in 2007, according to the National Police Agency. But the government estimates that fewer than 10 percent of victims report sexual crimes to the police for fear of being shamed in public trials.Do read the entire article. More statistics about teachers and sex crimes can be found here.
In South Korea, sex crimes generally can be prosecuted only if the victim presses charges, and charges are often dropped if a financial settlement is reached between the defendant and the plaintiff. Two years ago, the law was revised to require that all sex crimes involving alleged victims aged 18 or under be prosecuted, even if they have not themselves pressed charges. Following the uproar over “The Crucible,” the government has promised to extend this to cases where the alleged victims are mentally or physically disabled.
When sexual assault cases involving victims aged 13 and under come to trial now, roughly 95 percent of defendants are found guilty, but penalties are weak, with about a third receiving prison terms and the rest receiving suspended sentences or assessed fines. Half of the teachers who were convicted of sexually assaulting their students or others were given nothing more severe than a pay cut or a short suspension, according to the Education Ministry.
It's good to see that this is pushing the discourse on punishment for sex crimes (and legal responses) along, though, as I've pointed out here, this is a process that has been underway for the last five years, since a girl was abducted and murdered in Yongsan in February 2006.
Even earlier, in 2004, in response to a case in Miryang in which investigating police insulted teenaged girls who were gang-raped repeatedly over a period of months (and leaked their IDs to the media, and made them point out their rapists face to face), there was outrage by netizens and offline protests . Though 41 high school boys were involved, none were convicted of criminal charges.
"Rape is dismissed with a caution???"
(From here, where more photos can be found.)
(From here, where more photos can be found.)
Similarly, none of the children involved in a elementary school student on student sex abuse scandal at a Daegu were ever punished.
Lax treatment of sex offenders who have victimized children has led to furious public responses before. In the Yongsan case there was anger at the fact the killer had a previous sex crime against a child settled through compensation and was allowed to strike again (though this was due in part to it being incorrectly reported that he had committed many such sex crimes in the past), and of course the Nayoung case that came to light in the fall of 2009 made many waves.
Recently the Korea University med students who molested their drunken classmate were given tougher sentences than the prosecutors asked for, but at the same time, an appeals court judge reviewing the sentences of six years in prison and ten years of offender registry given to four men in their early twenties who gang-raped a 12 year old girl for four hours, opted to give them suspended sentences instead (see here, though it should read "a three year sentence suspended for four years", not "three years in prison and four years of probation").
Related to this is this rather shocking statistic (from here):
Some 50 percent of teenage rape cases occurred in groups, compared to 30 percent for adults. Experts say that this tendency is higher in Korea than in other countries.I had wondered before if a good number of those adult gang-rapes were in fact university students. This comment illustrates this quite well, and is believable in the light of the above quote.
And, in discussions of revising sex crime laws, perhaps someone might want to consider raising the age of consent to something higher than 13. Just an idea.
This topic reminds me of a story a friend told me years ago (but reminded me of recently) which took place in a hagwon south of Seoul. A female student at the hagwon was found to have a dislocated shoulder and vaginal tearing, and it was discovered that two male classmates had held her by the arms while egging on a classmate to stick his finger between her legs; the dislocated shoulder came from her struggling so much. A teacher was in the room, but because they were under some sort of playground equipment (if I remember correctly) they couldn't be seen, and with other children playing, couldn't be heard. The age of the students? Kindergarten. It was all settled in house, the result of which was - nothing happened. The parents of the girl pulled their daughter out, unsurprisingly. I suppose the hagwon owner considered the simple economics and figured losing one student was better than losing three. So it goes. One wonders if there would be any reason for the boys not to take away from the experience the lesson that, if they work together, they can get away with anything.