Wonju worries about its ex-convicts

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Wonju worries about its ex-convicts

The Justice Ministry’s capitulation to move a probation center for convicts out of a fancy neighborhood in Gyeonggi has emboldened residents of a more remote city.

Some 200 residents of Hakseong-dong in Wonju, Gangwon, started protesting a recently relocated probation facility in their neighborhood yesterday.

They were inspired by some 2,100 residents of Bundang in Gyeonggi’s city of Seongnam who objected to a probation center being stealthily opened in their neighborhood in early September. The residents objected to ex-cons hanging out in the Seohyeon Station area where Seongnam’s largest shopping mall and several luxury apartment complexes are located.

They said the Justice Ministry had moved the probation center under the cover of darkness to avoid locals’ scrutiny. And when residents stopped sending their kids to school in protest, the ministry gave in and promised to find a new location.

Wonju’s protesters are looking for the same kind of capitulation. The Wonju branch of Chungcheong’s probation office, which moved from Ilsan-dong into a space on Hakseong-dong at the end of last month, is located within a 100-meter (328-feet) radius of two schools.

People in the neighborhood say they fear for the safety of their children and claim that the Ministry of Justice gave them no advance warning of the probation center’s move last month.

This probation center in Gyeonggi 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.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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