End the tolerance of sex offenders

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End the tolerance of sex offenders


What’s going on in this country? Are we living in a nation where sex crimes are rampant? A mother barely stopped an attempted rape on her daughter after school, and an office worker chased and sexually assaulted a child. A 9-year-old girl was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered by Kim Jeom-deok, a neighbor in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang. A woman in her 40s was murdered along the Olle hiking course in Jeju and her hands were cut off from the wrists, with one found tucked inside a shoe at a bus stop. An uncle with a history of nine sexual offenses was caught after sexually assaulting his teenaged niece for years.

News outlets reported on all these sex crimes last week, and some people may have gone mad in the scorching heat. I was stunned when I read a report on Kim Jeom-deok, who told his Vietnamese wife, “As time goes by, things will quiet down. Hang in there and make money to support yourself.” He had kidnapped, assaulted and murdered a young girl but thinks things will become quiet in the end. He knew it all along. In fact, all the sex criminals know so well that the incidents may attract attention at first, but the buzz dies out. They serve a portion of the prison term and get released on probation.

Some offenders argue they were feeble-minded, rebellious after the divorce of their parents or have sexual drives when they see a certain color. How dare they claim the motive was accidental or involuntary. Do they want to say the victims were just unlucky? Korean law is too tolerant of sex crimes. In other countries, sexual offenses, especially against children and the disabled, are severely punished.

In Switzerland, a child sex criminal is sentenced to life in prison. According to the Jessica Lunsford Act in Florida, any molestation of a person under the age of 12 is classified as a life felony and is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison as well as lifetime electronic monitoring. Under the state of Kansas’ Sexually Violent Predator Act, any sex offender who is likely to re-engage in predatory acts of sexual violence can be indefinitely confined until the likelihood is completely cleared.

After the Tongyeong case, the sex offender information Web site was paralyzed. However, only 2,070 offenders are registered on the site, and there are more than 20,000 unregistered sex offenders who may re-engage in sexual offenses.

Kim Jeom-deok may be right. People are raising voices to retroactively apply the personal information release on other sex offenders or to draw up an emergency plan. But just as he expected, things will quiet down. We have had other heinous crimes in the past, and we are furious and concerned every time. But not much changed. My 16-year-long stay in the United States has taught me one thing clearly. The price of the crime against the vulnerable people such as children and the disabled is tremendous. Sex offenders should be segregated from society forever.

*The author is a guest columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Eom Eul-soon
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