Chemical castration drugs appeal to some non-criminals

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Chemical castration drugs appeal to some non-criminals

After two sex offenders asked the government to extend medical treatments to suppress hormones, some non-criminals are looking into the availability of the treatment, which currently costs thousands of dollars annually.

“I hear that the treatment is very successful, that it basically wipes out all desire to have sex,” wrote one participant in an online community last week.

“Tell me where I can get this treatment in Seoul,” wrote another, who identified himself as a 22-year-old man residing in Seoul, on Aug. 8. “I have no desire to commit crime because of my seemingly abnormal levels of sexual desire. I just want to be treated.”

“Consult a doctor at any urology clinic and they should be able to determine whether your sexual desire is hindering your work or is a threat to others around you,” wrote Kim Tae-han, a urologist, in response to the post on Aug. 8. “You may be prescribed with hormonal injections that should be able to reduce the level of hormones.”

Similar inquiries could be found on other websites and online communities lately.

The Ministry of Justice said in a statement on July 24 that a man in his 50s, who has served one year in prison for sexually assaulting a woman in a public space and was prescribed with hormonal therapy for three years from 2016, requested the government to extend the treatment.

Another man, imprisoned for sexual assault, made the same request. The man, in his 30s, has also been treated since 2016.

The two men received monthly injections of hormonal agents including leuprolide and goserelin that have the effect of lowering the level of hormones. They were also treated with psychological consultations. Their treatment ends in October.

The treatment, paid by the government and costing around 5 million won ($4,132) annually, can be prescribed to sex offenders for a period of up to three years, since the Act on Pharmacologic Treatment on Sex Offenders’ Sexual Impulses was enacted in July 2011.

Since then, six sex offenders were ordered by the court to receive the treatment in 2013; another six in 2014; another six in 2015; four in 2016; zero in 2017; one in 2018 and two in 2019, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The ministry was said to be looking into options for the two men to continue receiving the treatment at private medical clinics.

“We’re looking into whether it can be covered by insurance,” a ministry official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Lupron therapy, as it is called, is used for treatment of prostate cancer. In its use as a chemical castration agent, it has supporters and detractors.

“The injections have seen positive results in treatment of sex offenders and ordinary citizens in the past three years,” said Lim Myung-ho, a professor of psychology at Dankook University’s Cheonan campus in South Chungcheong. “If a sex offender voluntarily requests extension of the treatment, it should be granted to them.”

“If sex crimes can be prevented with the treatment, which costs around 500,000 won per injection, then this is a great achievement,” said Cho Sung-nam, head of the national hospital for prisoners in Gongju, South Chungcheong.

Other experts said there have not been enough cases and that it is too early to tell if the treatment is working.

The number of sex crimes has been on the rise in recent years. The number of rape and sexual assault cases recorded by the national police was 21,286 in 2015; 22,000 in 2016 and 24,110 in 2017.

“Hormones are not the only causal factor in sex crimes,” said Kim Dae-geun, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Criminology in southern Seoul. “There are other factors like revenge and hatred. Hormonal treatment may have a temporary effect, but it is yet to be seen if it can treat the problem at its foundation.”

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