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Couple gets 15 years for fatal neglect of toddler

Nov 14,2017
The father and stepmother who tied a 3-year-old boy to a bedpost with a dog leash for three days last July - leading to his death by choking - were sentenced to 15 years in jail last Thursday. They regularly beat and starved the boy, Park Hyun-joon, from October 2016 until his death.

Park was born to teen parents in 2014. His maternal grandmother took care of him until early 2015, when his parents divorced and his father remarried. Park moved in with the couple, which soon had a new child.

According to his grandmother, the boy’s father refused to let her see the boy, and cut off contact after changing his phone number last May.

Investigations found that Park was frequently abused in his new home. The stepmother, who is 22, told police, “I hit the boy on the head with my bare hands or with a plastic broom or dustpan when he didn’t listen or made the room messy.” In the three days before his death, Hyun-joon was locked in his room while the stepmother entertained a visiting cousin. She and the parents drank until three in the morning on the day of the boy’s death.

Park died on July 12, in Dalseo District, Daegu, choking to death on the dog collar his parents had tied around his neck and attached to a bedpost by a leash. The stepmother called the police eight hours after he died. A postmortem by the National Forensic Service confirmed the cause of death as pressure on Park’s cervical vertebrae. Medical authorities also noted that he bore numerous bruises on his body and was underdeveloped for his age, only weighing only 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and measuring 85 centimeters (33.5 inches).

Last Thursday, the Daegu District Court sentenced the parents to 15 years in jail for child abuse resulting in death and 200 hours in a child abuse treatment program. The length of the sentence surprised many as prosecutors had recommended 25-year sentences.

The court explained its decision, saying, “We took into account the stepmother’s adverse childhood living conditions, the biological father’s indifference towards his family and the difficulties of raising two young children.”

Hyun-joon’s maternal grandmother lamented the ruling. “The boy is gone forever, but those people [the parents] will come back out into society even before they are 40. Is this judgement really fair?”

“Hyun-joon was very docile and well-behaved. I don’t know what a 3-year-old could have done to deserve beatings and starvation.”

BY BAEK KYUNG-SEO, KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]


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