Cleaning up the subwayLast February, a 19-year-old man attempted to rape a middle school girl after sexually assaulting her in the subway. Several days ago, a photo that captured an image of a male passenger sexually molesting a woman sitting next to him using his elbow appeared in cyberspace. Sexual assaults on women in the subway are on the rise, raising the fear that a pivotal means of public transportation has turned into a blind spot for public safety.
According to documents provided by the police to Saenuri Party lawmaker Ahn Hyo-dae, cases of sexual crime on the subway across the nation showed a drastic surge from 546 in 2008 to 1,342 in 2010. In other words, 3.7 women are victims of sexual assault of some form or another every day.
An investigation unit for women and children under the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office has written a detailed report that reveals that Sindorim Station and a section between Sillim Station and Gangnam Station are most prone to sexual crimes for Line 1 of the Seoul subway. There are even reports that as much as 80 percent of men’s improper use of cameras to photograph women takes place on the subway.
The manpower needed to crack down on sexual assaults stops much short of our expectations. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency cut the number of subway police officers to 104 last year from 120 a year earlier. In particular, the number of officers in charge of curbing sexual assaults is only 90 from 16 branch offices of the Metropolitan Police Agency. Even though they do their best to control sex crimes on the subway, such a small-sized force is totally inadequate to put the brakes on these types of behavior. Under such circumstances, women have no other choice but to protect themselves on their own.
To ensure public safety on the subway, the government must substantially increase not only the number of police officers but also the size of the budget. We had the good news that reinforced police patrols on the subway in the month of March, when the Nuclear Security Summit was held in Seoul, led to a sharp reduction of crimes on the subway.
The government must deploy as many policemen as possible in places particularly vulnerable to sexual crimes. It also needs to consider the idea of designating some train cars exclusively for women during rush hour. The government should present effective measures to prevent our subways from evolving into hotbeds of crime beneath our streets.