12-year-old lives in vale of tears

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12-year-old lives in vale of tears

“I want to die. Why was I born? I don’t know why I should live. Despair, Death,” reads the diary of a 12-year-old girl surnamed Kim. She went so far as to slit her wrist with a pair of scissors a week after she was sent to a foster care center.

At the age of 12, Kim has had more heartbreak than many people experience in a lifetime. Her 8-year-old sister died of a rupture of the intestine last August following repeated beatings by the girls’ stepmother.

The stepmother then demanded Kim tell the police that she had kicked her sister - and killed her.

The Daegu District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday said it would request a 20-year prison term for the stepmother on charges of fatally injuring her younger stepdaughter and forcing a false confession from Kim.

According to the prosecution, the 35-year-old stepmother, who was identified by the surname Lim, allegedly made the younger sister stand against a wall at 11:30 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2013, and beat her with her fists and kicked her.

After the second beating, the girl passed out and was taken to the hospital. She died of a ruptured intestine and peritonitis two days later.

Lim also allegedly coerced Kim into falsely testifying that she kicked her sister in the stomach. Kim later confided to an official in her foster care center that she lied because she did not want to be scolded by Lim, which Lim denied.

The authorities believe the physical abuse began in August or September 2012, when the sisters moved in with their father and stepmother, which means that it continued for about a year.

The sisters’ teachers and neighbors reported that they suspected the girls were being physically abused, but the parents simply denied it.

Following yesterday’s announcement, civic groups and the victim’s family complained that the stepmother wasn’t charged with a tougher charge of murder.

They cited a case in Ulsan last year in which authorities charged a stepfather for murder after he beat his stepdaughter to death.

“It is hard to prove the intention for murder,” explained Choi Jong-won, a prosecutor in the local prosecutors’ office. “We cannot say Lim did it intentionally since the victim did not die on the scene but two days later at the hospital. The authorities in the Ulsan case were able to prove the stepfather’s intention of murdering his stepdaughter because a broken rib pierced her heart and killed her on the scene.”

The older sister has been living in foster care since Feb. 3 and has been attending a nearby elementary school. She seems to still be terrified by her memories eight months ago.

According to the people around her, she doesn’t mingle with the other children, tends to get irritated easily and suddenly bursts into tears saying she wants to die.

An official at the center said Kim has cleaned her underwear and socks since arriving at the center.

“She is still little, so I was surprised to see her doing her own laundry,” the official said. “It is pitiful because it seems like the stepmother made her do laundry and cleaning when they were living together.”

Kim’s biological mother also paid a visit to the center last week. She told the center that she couldn’t come to meet her before for personal reasons, but she will take her daughter to live with her soon.

Lim’s trial is slated to open Friday.

BY KIM YOUN-HO [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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