[LETTERS to the editor]Don’t shortchange child protection

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[LETTERS to the editor]Don’t shortchange child protection

It has become commonplace in Korea that the department in charge of juvenile affairs at a police station also takes charge of crackdowns on the sex trade. This writer, as a person who has long been involved in a war against illegal sex trade, wants to point out this absurdity. The biggest problem is that police juvenile departments simply cannot afford to take on the additional work.

The number of children and youths each police station is expected to be responsible for reaches 40,000 on average. On the other hand, the number of staff in the juvenile department of 239 police stations nationwide averages 4.1 per station. The jobs to be handled by those four in the juvenile department are numerous, ranging from abused children to school violence, domestic violence, runaway kids and juvenile delinquency. A crackdown on the illegal sex trade has been newly added to the list since September 2004.

Coincidentally, so many sensational crimes against children have occurred since 2004 when the Anti-Sex Trade Act was put in force. The most shocking case was of missing children who were later found dead. This occurred in Yongsan, Seoul in 2006, in Jeju in 2007 and most recently, in Anyang earlier this year.

I fear the reason why crimes victimizing children have increased in number and worsened is due to a shortage of workers in the juvenile department of police stations, who are additionally tasked to tackle sex crimes while being expected to handle crimes against children at the same time.

A war against the illegal sex trade is not something done easily. The number of sex workers across the country numbers some 1 million. The number rises adding pimps and related workers. In order to deal with such a huge number of people who desperately resist the enforcement of the Anti-Sex Trade Act to make their living, we need a large number of policemen in charge of the matter. To address a shortage of policemen that is now so apparent to all, the government should now beef up a budget to counter illegal sex trade and reinforce staff.

Employing juvenile departments of police stations to carry on a war against the sex trade will eventually compromise the safety of our children. Currently, control of crimes against children is mostly based on reports [reactive] while there is virtually no room for proactive investigation or prevention.

This writer firmly believes that juvenile departments of police stations must be allowed to focus only on crimes against children and a separate squad in charge of illegal sex trade should be established. By doing so, we will be able to carry out both jobs successfully - protecting our children and eradicating illegal sex trade.

Kim Gang-ja, visiting professor of police administration, Hannam University

*e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219
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