Protests force quick retreat on probation office site

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Protests force quick retreat on probation office site

Protesters in the Bundang District of Seongnam City, Gyeonggi, called off their sit-in yesterday after the Ministry of Justice yielded to their demand that the Seongnam probation office, moved only seven days ago into the district, be relocated.

The center is now housed in a building near Seohyeon Station in Bundang, where Seongnam’s largest shopping mall and several luxury apartment complexes are located.

The ministry said on Monday that it would find a new location for the correctional facility as soon as possible. The turnaround appeared to be more like a rout. “We won’t do any more work at the center near Seohyeon Station and will promptly look for another place to move to,” said a Justice Ministry official. “As soon as we find a proper site, we’d like to go there quickly, even if that means working in a container office until a new building is ready.”

Despite the ministry’s concession, some parents still boycotted schools near the probation center yesterday. Only 18 of 377 students of Seohyeon Elementary School showed up for class; at Sunae Elementary School, only 70 of 1,427 pupils showed up.

Former convicts check in with their parole officers at such centers. The protesters cited concerns about the safety of children attending schools in the area. Included in the centers’ work is tracking the whereabouts of sex offenders fitted with ankle-bracelet location devices. They also have programs to rehabilitate minor lawbreakers such as those convicted after traffic accidents or for drunken driving.

The Bundang protesters said that the probation center was quietly opened in the early morning six days ago. They accused the ministry of deception and complained that no information about the move was given to residents in advance.

This center has been a wanderer for the last 13 years. It first opened in 2002 in Sujin 2-dong. In May 2005 the ministry attempted to move to Gumi-dong, but scrapped the plan a few years later in the face of opposition from residents. It has been housed at three different locations in Sujin-dong, where it met protests on multiple occasions at each site.

The fierce controversy over this center has also alarmed residents of other areas where others are located. Wonju’s city council and residents said the Justice Ministry had drawn up a relocation plan for the Wonju branch of Chungcheong’s probation center without informing the public there.

The branch office moved to Hakseong-dong from Ilsan-dong last month, prompting Hakseong’s residents’ committee to call for that move to be rescinded.

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