Child sex-offender laws get tougher

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Child sex-offender laws get tougher

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Bereaved family members of Lee Yu-ri, the rape murder victim, sob as the funeral service began yesterday in Busan. By Song Bong-geun

The government and the ruling and opposition parties vowed yesterday to swiftly toughen measures to monitor and punish sexual predators of children as public anger grew over persistent loopholes in the system that resulted from legislative inaction.

The Lee Myung-bak administration and the Grand National Party agreed yesterday to find a legal way to retrospectively apply regulations that govern the monitoring of convicted sex offenders. The move came after the police continue their search for the primary suspect in the recent rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Busan.

“We want the Legislative Committee to open, deliberate and vote on the bills related to child sex crimes as soon as possible,” said Ahn Sang-soo, the GNP floor leader.

Kim Kil-tae is wanted by the police for the rape and slaying of Lee Yu-ri, whose body was recovered Saturday. Although Kim had two past convictions for brutal sexual crimes and was wanted by the police for another at the time of Lee’s death, he was not under special watch by the law enforcement authorities because revised laws are only applied to crimes committed after September 2008.

“The legislature should revise the laws before the end of this month,” Ahn said. He said, however, it will be difficult for the legislature to make the revision at the scheduled voting session on March 18, adding that he will consult with opposition parties to have another session to make the changes this month.

The opposition Democratic Party also said yesterday that it was very aware of the issue.

“We must make the changes during the March session,” said Representative Lee Kang-rae, floor leader of the DP.

“The National Assembly is under severe criticism for having sat on sex-crime bills,” Lee said. “Since the brutal crimes in 2008 and last year, about 20 bills were proposed, but they were all logjammed in the Legislative Committee. We must ask the committee and pass them in March.”

The pending bills include punishment by chemical castration and providing psychological treatment to sex offenders. A bill to suspend the statute of limitations for a child victim until he or she becomes an adult and another bill to increase the sentence by up to 50 percent for a sex offender who commits the crime under the influence of alcohol or drugs is also pending at the committee.

Sixty senior prosecutors who are in charge of sex crimes at the 18 prosecutors’ offices nationwide had talked of ways to strengthen monitoring of sexual predators. One idea discussed was a plan to place electronic anklets on convicted sex offenders when they are released from prison even if they were indicted before the relevant laws took effect in 2008.

To accomplish this, the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office will draft an improvement plan to the Justice Ministry seeking legislative approval. Prosecutors also discussed a plan to make public the identities of more sex offenders. They agreed to ask courts to hand down at least 10 years of imprisonment to child sex offenders for their first crime. If the courts hand down lighter punishments, prosecutors will appeal all cases, they agreed.

Prosecutors also said they will collect DNA samples of all convicted sex offenders starting in July to build a database. In the latest case in Busan, a trace of Kim’s DNA on Lee’s body was the decisive evidence in identifying him as the primary suspect.

While lawmakers and prosecutors held discussions, Lee’s funeral took place yesterday in Busan. Her mother collapsed in grief and her father gazed at the sky, speechless.

“We hope she can rest in a peaceful place where there will be no tears and sadness,” said Reverend Park Jeong-gy of Jooan Church, who presided over the memorial service. “We earnestly pray that there will be no more victims like her.”

The hearse briefly made a stop at Sasang Elementary School, where Lee had graduated this winter. Teachers and students came out and bid her farewell.


By Ser Myo-ja, Kim Sang-jin [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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