[Viewpoint]Move beyond politics and take actionOne year ago, on Feb. 22, 2006, female lawmakers of the Uri Party pledged they would make it a rule to put a sign up at sex criminals’ houses. The Democratic Labor Party presented six measures about sex crimes, including a plan to put “all sex criminals under the protective supervision of law enforcement authorities.”
Two days later, the Grand National Party said, “We will open report centers for sex crimes at all city and provincial party chapters, as well as the party’s central headquarters.” They were all reacting to a tragic incident in which an adult sexually abused and brutally killed a primary school girl in Yongsan, Seoul.
On Thursday last week, the mother of the victim wept, saying, “My daughter was victimized by the terrible crime a year ago, and nothing has changed.”
The female lawmakers of the Uri Party and the Democratic Labor Party admitted their negligence, saying, “After the announcement, we could not even hold a meeting on the subject.”
A leading member of the Grand National Party retorted, “Did our party announce such a plan?”
The government is no better than the political parties.
The only thing the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family did last year was to hold a ceremony commemorating the designation of “the day for the expulsion of sex crimes against children.”
The prosecution declared it would investigate every sex criminal being held in detention, but it was dashed by the court’s decision that investigations should, in principle, be carried out without physical detention.
The number of suspects who were detained dropped even lower last year.
And law enforcement authorities made lukewarm efforts on projects such as establishing facilities for the medical care and custody of sex criminals, and programs designed to educate and develop sexual offenders.
The plan to revise the law to ban sex criminals from getting access to their victims was canceled while the draft revision was in the process of prior notification.
There are a few things that have been strengthened.
The Ministry of Justice has presented a draft bill that would place electronic tracking devices on sex criminals and another to establish a databank holding genetic information about sex criminals.
A draft revision of the Youth Protection Act would open personal information about sex criminals, so it may be accessed by local residents, is also pending at the National Assembly.
But these bills have all been sleeping in the legislature for the past several months.
While adults wasted time, 980 children were sexually abused last year, according to police statistics.
Sexual attacks ruin both the body and the spirit of the victim as they give an extreme sense of shame and self-contempt. Sometimes the aftereffects last for all of the victim’s life.
Although the victim was abused sexually, the public often confuses it with sexual relations, so there is a tendency in sex crimes for victims to try to conceal their injuries.
Excessively harsh punishment against sex criminals can raise issues of constitutionality and fairness with regard to the punishment for other crimes.
However, the reality in Korea is that only 20 percent of criminals who sexually abuse are sentenced to imprisonment while the rest get light punishments, such as fines or suspended sentences.
With such lukewarm punishment, there is no way to prevent sex criminals from roaming the streets.
Cases of sexual abuse against children amount to about 70 percent of the cases brought forward after their legal statute of limitations expires.
Because in the past, there were many cases in which the courts were reluctant to call young victims as witnesses, their pain, as well as that of family members, was aggravated.
We must promote a policy against sex crimes consistently by enacting new laws at the National Assembly and following the uninterrupted implementation of existing laws by the government.
Only then will the awareness of citizens be heightened and will potential pedophiles feel the changes directly in society.
It is regrettable that the political community and a officials lack the desire to help the socially disadvantaged, instead of using the issue only for political purposes.
*The writer is an editorial writer and staff writer on women’s affairs at the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Kyung-ran