School guard charged with molesting 9 children

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School guard charged with molesting 9 children

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A former Navy officer was caught molesting elementary students on more than 50 occasions, targeting school children below the age of 10 since last year while working as a school guard.

The Jinhae Police Precinct in South Gyeongsang said yesterday it detained a 66-year-old man, surnamed Kim, on charges of sexually violating nine school children.

Authorities reported Kim’s first act of molestation started April last year when he touched a then-7-year-old girl, whose identity has been undisclosed.

The suspect has committed sexual violence against the victim until recently, giving her 500 to 1,000 won ($.43 to $.87) each time he committed a crime, telling her to buy snacks with the money.

The disgraced former Navy officer’s behavior did not stop there. The suspect also sexually harassed the victim’s younger sister, who enrolled at school this March.

In total, the man assaulted the two sisters more than 50 times since last year, in addition to sexual harassment of seven other students from first to fourth grade at the same school.

The sites where he committed his crimes were all near the school. A bench on the corner of the school grounds was among them, the police said. Kim claimed he had molested only the two sisters, not the other seven alleged victims.

Discharged from the Navy in 1999, Kim has been working as a school guard since 2009, helping students cross the street in the morning before school.

The suspect was also in charge of preventing school violence and sexual offenders from entering the school by monitoring CCTVs installed in the building. Instead, he became one of them.

The police said the suspect has no prior criminal record and thus was able to land a custodian job provided by the regional education office. “Because he had led his career in the military with no criminal record, no one suspected him,” said the investigator.

The two sisters’ parents found out about the crimes when they asked the daughter how she got a 1,000 won note. The victim told the parent the school custodian gave it to her for touching her body, according to the police.

The crime in Jinhae is not the first incident involving school custodians molesting students. In May last year, another school patrolman, surnamed Kim, in his 60s, was sentenced to one year in jail with a two-year suspension on charges of sexual molestation of a middle school student.

The series of sexual offenses by school workers has raised concerns about loopholes as the school doesn’t require background checks for school guards.

The school guard system was introduced in 2006 partly as an effort to stave off school violence, mostly hiring retired teachers, police officers and military members. There are about 8,000 school guards dispatched at more than 8,000 schools nationwide.

Upon discovering the crime, the South Gyeongsang Office of Education said it would launch an extensive overhaul for the patrol program so that students do not fall victim to sexual predators again.

By Kim Yun-ho, Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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