Sexual assault case darkens Sinan’s door

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Sexual assault case darkens Sinan’s door

Mokpo Police arrested three locals Saturday from Heuksan Island, Sinan County, South Jeolla, on a charge of sexually assaulting a female teacher in her twenties in an elementary school building after getting her drunk.

Children of two of the locals attend the school where the teacher worked. While the teacher was having dinner in a restaurant that was run by one of the suspects on May 22, she was asked to join the group’s table where they then offered her drinks, according to police.

After the teacher, who is not a heavy drinker, became intoxicated, the three locals told her that they would give her a lift to her home, but instead went to the building of an elementary school and sexually assaulted her, added police.

The victim reported the crime to police and they identified the three suspects after examining DNA found at the crime scene.

The teacher is currently on sick leave and is receiving psychiatric treatment to recover from the trauma she sustained from the assault. Police later reported that they suspect the crime was premeditated.

The online site of the South Jeolla Office of Education, meanwhile, was flooded with so many comments of outrage and condemnation that access to the site was delayed or even impossible on Tuesday morning.

Many of the comments on the site criticized the entirety of Sinan County by mentioning a case in 2014 in which people with developmental disorders were sold off to work in the county’s salt pits without receiving proper wages.

“We should boycott the natural sea salt produced in Sinan County,” read a post on the website.

“I will cancel my trip to Sinan,” read another.

Critics also say that the South Jeolla Provincial Government has proposed policies to prevent such crimes because it is worried that such cases might impede its attempts to attract more tourists to the province’s islands.

“To secure the safety of the tourists,” said Choi Jung-hee, head of the sea and harbor department at the provincial office on Tuesday, “we will reduce the number of places where people can’t connect to their mobile phones, and increase the number of CCTVs at major tourist attractions and beaches.”

Given the fact that Sinan County is the only place without a police station among the 22 cities and counties in the province, many experts have suggested that the government build a police station first. Sinan County is 655 square kilometers (405 square miles), which makes it bigger than Seoul. Despite its size, however, only Mokpo Police hold jurisdiction over the area.

The Ministry of Education also held a conference in Sejong to devise policies to prevent crimes against teachers in remote and isolated regions.

“Since more than 75 percent of all working teachers are women,” said Kim Dong-won, director of the school policy department at the Ministry of Education, “it’s impossible not to send female teachers to remote places such as islands. But it is true that the living environment of teachers in such places is poor and lacks safety protection due to outdated facilities in the region, and we are deeply regretful about that.”

The South Jeolla Office of Education formerly refrained from assigning inexperienced female teachers to islands but changed that policy last year and hired 11 new teachers, two of them women. The office, however, said it is looking to retract the plan after the recent crime.

BY SHIN SOO-YEON, KIM HO [shin.sooyeon@joongang.co.kr]

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