Police handling of child rape victim questioned

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Police handling of child rape victim questioned

Parents across the country reacted with shock at the abduction of an 8-year-old girl from a school playground Monday and her subsequent rape by a convicted sex offender.

Now they’re angry at how the police treated the young victim.

According to police reports seen by the JoongAng Ilbo and intended for local prosecutors, the girl, identified by the surname Lee, escaped from her abductor’s house after being raped and was found by police near the school from which she was abducted four hours earlier.

Lee was bleeding profusely, but instead of being brought to a hospital, a female police officer asked Lee to identify the scene of the crime.

The police officer said “Let’s go back to the house,” but failed to find the exact location. Lee was then taken to a hospital where she underwent six hours of surgery to repair damage from the assault.

The police have identified the alleged rapist as Kim Su-cheol, a temporary construction worker who was jailed for rape in 1987. The Yeongdeungpo police precinct said it could not confirm the details of how Lee was handled, while the parents of the victim are currently unreachable.

Parents are questioning what authorities have done to prevent sex crimes against minors after the shocking cases of Cho Du-sun, who was given a 12-year sentence for beating and raping a young girl inside a public toilet in 2008, and Kim Kil-tae, who is on trial for the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Busan in February.

“I heard he did something bad before,” said a woman yesterday outside the school where Lee was abducted, anxiously eyeing her 7-month-old niece in a stroller. “Aren’t these crimes repeating themselves because they let people like him go out in public?”

Other parents formed a small brigade in front of the school, Usin Elementary School in Yeongdeungpo District. Another woman waiting for her granddaughter was livid.

“They should never let people like him see the light of day ever again. He must be given a death sentence or at least life.”

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office announced in April they had sent a how-to manual for investigations of child sex crimes to all prosecutors nationwide.

The manual, which became official policy from April 15, specified how authorities should carry out investigations in order to prevent further psychological trauma to the victims.

The guidelines allow victims to video record testimony so they won’t have to face their alleged offenders in court, and instructs prosecutors to visit victims in their homes during investigations to reduce their discomfort.

Several bills to prevent child sex crimes and toughen punishment of convicted offenders were passed speedily through the National Assembly in March, although parents aren’t convinced of their effectiveness.

“How do they expect our children to study in this unsafe environment?” asked a parent outside the school yesterday. “It is flabbergasting that no one was there to stop Kim just because it was a school holiday.”

The school where Lee was abducted has one security guard, and he is off on weekends and holidays. Monday was the school’s monthly holiday, although Lee was there for a special class.

“I don’t think the school has much consideration for security,” said Kim Tae-un, 60, the current guard at Usin. Kim said he can “only pay attention to the front gate” as he is the sole person in charge of the school’s safety.

The ruling Grand National Party will propose an amendment allowing underage victims of sex crimes to be appointed public defenders and increase victims’ access to information regarding their cases. The current law assigns public lawyers to the defendants only.

In the Cho case, the victim’s father was denied access to documents related to the trial of his daughter’s attacker.

More parents are now taking security into their own hands. As another parent outside Usin said yesterday: “I was unable to pay as much attention [to my child] as I wanted to before because of work, but now I think I have no choice but to come every day.”

By Kim Jeen-kyung, Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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