Police admit to rape case errors

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Police admit to rape case errors

Admitting that they made mistakes during their investigation of the kidnap and rape of an 8-year-old girl, Seoul police said they will revise their guidelines for handling young sexual assault victims.

They also pledged to henceforth publicize suspects’ names and faces when they have concrete evidence tying them to heinous crimes.

Yeoungdeungpo District police came under fierce public criticism after they took the young victim to search for the crime scene before they brought her to the hospital. The girl required six hours of surgery for her injuries.

Yesterday Chief Kwon Se-do admitted that the investigating officers “didn’t properly treat the young girl.”

“The police handling of the matter wasn’t appropriate for the sake of the victim,” he said.

Kim Su-cheol, 45, has been charged with abducting the child from her school playground on June 7 and forcing her to go to his nearby home, where he threatened her with a box-cutter blade and raped her.

Both the viciousness of the attack and the police investigation sparked instant public fury. During Kim’s re-enactment of the crime on Tuesday, crowds shouted at police to remove his hat so they could see his face.

The scene echoed the public anger that surrounded the arrest of Kim Kil-tae, who is now on trial for raping and murdering 13-year-old Lee Yu-ri in Busan in February. In a break with past practice, his name and face were released in response to persistent public demand. Police released Kim Su-cheol’s photo on June 11, a day after the JoongAng Ilbo and JoongAng Daily published his name and a decades-old mug shot.

Choi Ik-su, the chief investigator at Yeongdeungpo, said that from now on, metropolitan police will publicly identify strong suspects in vicious crimes before they are submitted to prosecutors for indictment. He said the decision will be made on a case-by-case basis, “by finding the balance between conflicting values - the public’s right to know and concern for the human rights of the offender.”

Prosecutors had allowed that change in April, when, in response to the outrage surrounding Lee’s murder, the Justice Ministry revised the investigative guidelines that had previously hidden suspects’ faces from view.

Police at that time changed their investigative procedures for treating young rape victims to align with the prosecutors’ recommendations. But only three months later, they said they will again examine their procedures to try to prevent further psychological trauma to the victims.

Kim Su-cheol was turned over to prosecutors yesterday after police filed additional charges against him for buying the sexual services of an 18-year-old runaway, as well as theft. Police said Kim used a stolen ID card to register at an employment agency while collecting a monthly basic living subsidy from the government.

Before he was turned over to prosecutors, Kim allegedly pleaded with police to spare his life. “I’m so sorry,” he reportedly said while covering his face with both hands. “I’ll expiate my wrongdoings for my entire life.”

The statement came only a day after he told police, “There’s a devil of lust inside of me. I deserve death for my crime.”

By Kim Mi-ju, Kim Jeen-kyung [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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