[Letters] Government must take action on child abuse

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[Letters] Government must take action on child abuse

A very significant article was published recently in the American Journal of Psychiatry. According to the research cited, children who experience abuse during childhood will be twice as likely to develop long-term, chronic depression. Researchers have also linked childhood abuse to other emotional and behavioral problems such as low self esteem, anxiety and delinquency.

In Korea, 5,656 cases of child abuse were reported last year alone. Of them, 37.3 percent were linked to behavioral issues such as rebellion; impulsive and aggressive acts; lies and thefts. Another 36.2 percent were linked to emotional and mental health issues such as attention deficit disorders, excessive behaviors and game addictions. And yet, only 9.1 percent were given medical and psychological treatments - mainly because of underfunding and lack of manpower .

In the U.S. state of Missouri, the Boys & Girls Town, a residential treatment facility, provides support for child abuse victims. The facility, which has four campuses, protects and treats victims of child abuse from 88 regions in the state. The facility provides 24-hour treatment from specialists in various fields from psychology to social services.

Now, Korea has the ground to build a residential facility to protect and treat victimized children. Some of the urgent cases that require isolation and protection will be admitted to the facility, and social service workers and medical professionals will provide efficient services.

And yet, the central and local governments’ active efforts are still required, and more governmental funding is urgently needed to operate the facility. Furthermore, society needs to realize that child abuse does not only hinder child development, but it also has more wide-ranging negative impacts on the country.

When we see reports about child sex crime and serial murders, our first reaction is to become enraged with the criminals. However, we pay little attention to the criminals’ childhoods, many of which are likely to have been abusive. When these children were suffering alone, society never paid attention to them, leaving them with irreversible scars. The time has come for the government to take action.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.

Jang Hwa-jeong, director of the National Child Protection Agency
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