Monday, April 02, 2012

NSET who fled molestation accusations in 2010 extradited to Korea

Yonhap reports that a "U.S. teacher [has been] arrested over suspected child molestation
DAEGU, April 2 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. language instructor who fled South Korea after being suspected of child molestation was recently arrested in his native country and extradited to the South, police here said Monday.

The 56-year-old teacher, whose identity was withheld, is accused of five counts of molestation of four boys between June and July 2010, the police said.
Korea Beat translated the Korean language Yonhap article, which adds that "On the 27th of last month police received Mr. M’s extradition through US authorities and detained him on the 29th." This MBN article confirms that he was repatriated on March 27th.

An article at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website from February 29 reveals that he was arrested in the US on February 27 and was to face an extradition hearing in U.S. District Court on March 2, along with other information:
A local man who is wanted by Korean law enforcement authorities for allegedly molesting four young boys while he was working as an English teacher in Daegu, Korea, was arrested Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).

[] Burke, 56, of Chicago, is the subject of an international warrant issued on July 9, 2010, by the Daegu District Court of the Republic of Korea. The Republic of Korea has requested that Burke be formally extradited to face charges of indecent acts through violence or intimidation against children under age 13, as contained in the Korean Criminal Act.

According to the extradition complaint filed in federal court Feb. 24 in the Northern District of Illinois, an investigation by Korean authorities revealed that in the summer of 2010, Burke was working as an English teacher at an elementary school in Daegu, Korea. On July 3, 2010, two students reported to their homeroom teacher that they had been sexually fondled by Burke. On July 5, 2010, Burke was banned from teaching at the school, and he left Korea two days later.

Further investigation by Korean authorities revealed that Burke had allegedly molested four 11- and 12-year-old boys at the elementary school during June and July 2010. According to the complaint, the alleged acts against the boys involved improper sexual contact, including fondling and touching.[...]

The investigation leading up to Burke's arrest was conducted by HSI Chicago; HSI Seoul, South Korea; USMS; and the Daegu, Korea, Metropolitan Police Agency.
It's nice to see that he's finally been brought to justice. Left out of that description, however, was that the school apparently waited several days to alert the police (and that the school didn’t take the charges of sexual abuses seriously and tried to cover it up), and the suspect fled the country two and half hours before the Ministry of Justice requested a travel ban (or before said ban was to take effect), so there was quite a bit of dropping the ball there.

The result of this case for foreign teachers was an assurance by the Daegu office of education that the "native speaking teacher training course will involve an enhanced sex crime prevention program," (it's 'crime prevention tips' released a few months later can be read here), assurances by outlets like NoCut News that "Now deviant and criminal acts by foreign teachers have become common," and new E-2 visa requirements by the Ministry of Justice. Or as NoCut News put it,
Recently native speaking teachers have been committing various crimes such as molestation or drug use again and again, and amidst this the government has decided to strengthen visa requirements in order to filter out substandard 'troublemaker' native speaking teachers.
Translations of those articles can be found here. The new E-2 visa regulations included federal criminal record checks for Americans and Canadians, changes to diploma verification, and the inclusion of marijuana in the drug test needed to receive alien registration at immigration offices.

Oddly enough, while searching for more information on this case, I came across a Donga Ilbo article from February with this statistic:
In Korea, education offices found 58 teachers who committed sex crimes against juveniles from 2005 until August last year. Half of the teachers molested students in their own schools. Twenty-six teachers received light disciplinary action such as suspension, salary reduction and reprimand.
That figure is much higher and more specific than the statistics announced by Rep. Choi Young-hee back in 2009.
A total of 124 sexual crimes involving elementary and secondary school teachers were reported to the education authorities between 2006 and 2009. Among them, 47 involved prostitution, 43 were sexual harassment and five were rape cases.

However, only eight teachers (6 percent) were given prison sentences, while 31 were not indicted and 28 received suspended sentences.

“It seems that teachers were exempt from punishment through out-of-court settlements with the parents of the victims,” Rep Choi said.

“Moreover, each city and provincial education offices, which were supposed to strictly punish those teachers, gave only verbal warnings. Only 21 teachers were fired for sexual violence.”

According to data collected by the lawmaker, nearly 60 percent of the assailants were merely warned or reprimanded.
Those statistics were not very specific (especially since over 1/3 were for prostitution, which, as long as it didn't involve minors, is hardly something I'd describe as a sex crime). While sex crime against children has been the subject of furor in the media and online in response to horrific crimes over the years and laws have slowly been changing (see here and here), the fact that teachers can have consensual sex with students as long as they are 13 or older without legal repercussions (due to that being the age of consent and their being no legal prohibitions against teachers or others in positions of authority having sex with minors) is, perhaps, somewhat unhelpful. There were suggestions that the age of consent be raised after the case described in the link above (in October 2010), but little seems to have come of it.

Perhaps this seems to be a bit of a tangent from the original subject of this post, but then again, the fact that the case may have initially been covered up or minimized by the school (allowing the suspect to escape) is reflected in the attitudes towards sex crimes by teachers against students in general which result in the lax punishments described above.


James said...

If only he'd been drunk and/or a relative to one of the victims he'd get away with a slap on the wrist.

kushibo said...

James, someday someone should do a study to see how often that "I wuz drunk, your honor" excuse is used and if it really is effective.

I half-suspect that it's more of a meme than a prudent legal strategy in court, at least in some cases. Just a hunch, but something along the lines of the temporary insanity defense, which works successfully more in entertainment media than in real life.


At any rate, I had forgotten about the The Marmot's Hole's 2010 post when I read about the extradition at Korea Beat, so thanks for connecting the dots.

As I wrote there, I hope that news of this extradition will deter people with such proclivities from coming to Korea to teach in the first place, though I'm not saying there were loads of such people to begin with (Neil and McDowell and a few kyopo being notable exceptions).

James said...

"The nation was shocked after it was learned last month that a 57-year-old man raped 8-year-old child, leaving her sexually disabled and having to rely on a colostomy bag due to her missing organs.

The repeat sexual offender, named Cho Doo-soon, was given a sentence commutation for temporary mental disorder caused by drunkenness"

My home country's legal system (US) is far from perfect, but alcohol is never a mitigating factor. Just the opposite, in fact.

IMO, this is a very good thing re: child abuse, drunk driving, etc.