[Letters] Koreans’ view on sex crimes

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[Letters] Koreans’ view on sex crimes

Recently, a 75-year-old Austrian man named Josef Fritzl was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison for a most hideous deed. Joseph had locked up his daughter, Elisabeth, in a cellar for 24 years, during which he raped her constantly. He fathered seven children with his daughter, and shockingly, three of them were disguised as abandoned children and raised upstairs by himself and his wife, while the other four children lived in the cellar, where one died. For a long time, Fritzl evaded justice, but he was found out, punished and his victims freed. Justice has been too long in coming. Can such a monster as Fritzl exist in Korea? Will such a horror appear here? I do not doubt it.

Compared to other countries, South Korea’s public awareness of sex crimes is extremely low. Sex criminals often avoid punishment and live ordinary lives with clean records. Sexual harassment in the workplace is considered so common that the victims almost always have to endure it, blaming no one but themselves.

Even major crimes, such as the sexual abuse for months of six middle school students by high school students in 2004, are now almost forgotten. Moreover, only the primary three of 41 abusers were sentenced to 10 months of imprisonment while the other criminals easily avoided punishment. The victims, small girls, were harshly criticized by the criminals’ parents and the police for their “misbehavior,” which they claimed had lured young, “innocent” boys. The police officer in charge of the case even mentioned that he is afraid that when his daughter grows up, she might behave “improperly,” like the victims. The unpunished criminals still live next door to us, while the deeply hurt girls can never forget, reveal or be freed of their nightmares.

This country treats the victims of sex crimes as criminals who need to be punished, leaving great leeway for the real criminals to avoid punishment. It is shocking, but such practices are very common, and people’s perception of sexual abuse still involves blaming the victim.

Throughout my short life, I was surprised to know many girls my age who have experienced sexual abuse or harassment at least once. One of my friends told me that a girl living in Korea constantly has to remind herself of the potential dangers of sexual abuse around her. Such dangers are so common that Korean citizens do not care anymore about “trivial” sexual harassment at school, work or anywhere else.

This is wrong. No matter how widespread the danger of sexual harassment, it should be brought under control. To make that possible, we first have to change our view of this issue. Sex crimes should not be something everyone encounters in their lifetime. Sex criminals need to be severely punished, and just a little change in our perspective will ensure that they are.

Hur Yun-young, CheongShim International Academy
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