Child rapist Cho Doo-soon released from jail after 12 years
Cho Doo-soon, one of Korea’s most notorious child rapists, was released from prison Saturday after serving a reduced sentence of just over a decade.
Cho was swarmed by angry protesters outside his residence, with thousands of comments online saying that his release after only 12 years in prison is proof that the Korean justice system is lax in its response to serious sex offenses.
Cho, now 68, is responsible for one of the most infamous rape cases in Korea. On Dec. 11, 2008, Cho kidnapped an eight-year-old girl — who the media later gave the pseudonym Na-young — on her way to school in Ansan, Gyeonggi.
Cho took her into a toilet stall at a nearby church, strangled and beat her unconscious, then raped her. He also tortured the girl in other ways, according to investigators at the time.
Na-young subsequently underwent eight hours of surgery, but the rape and torture left around 80 percent of her lower organs completely dysfunctional.
Huge public outcry followed Cho’s arrest, but what made the case exceptionally contentious was the length of the punishment he ultimately received.
In September 2009, the Supreme Court sentenced Cho to 12 years in prison and mandated that he wear an electronic anklet for an additional seven years — a sentencing that took into account the defense’s argument that Cho was under the influence of alcohol when he committed the crime.
Though legal analysts pointed out the evidence presented by Cho’s lawyers of his intoxication was flimsy at best, prosecutors did not challenge the theory and thus enabled the reduced sentence.
The case left a lasting impression on public opinion about the justice system that later prompted revisions to laws pertaining to sex crimes involving minors.
Most recently, the National Assembly unanimously passed a law — dubbed the Cho Doo-soon prevention law — that mandates sex offenders’ public information, including their address, be released publicly after their release, and prohibits them from coming into the vicinity of places like kindergartens.
Ironically, the new law cannot be applied to Cho.
Fueled partly by politicians’ lack of interest in the issue throughout the 12 years of Cho’s incarceration, public furor was still apparent among those who gathered to protest Cho’s release in front of his home in Ansan. Many of them carried signs calling for Cho’s re-incarceration, castration or even execution, while others tried to pelt him with eggs.
Escorted by probation officers for his protection, Cho remained silent when reporters tried to ask him questions. According to one of his probation officers, Cho reportedly remarked during the car journey that he was surprised to see just how many people had shown up to protest his release, as well as the rage they manifested.
Cho's release also prompted a wave of insecurity among Ansan residents, who for months had been calling on the government to delay his release or take measures to prevent him from living in the city with his wife.
Authorities responded by noting it was impossible to imprison Cho again due to proscriptions against double jeopardy, but assured citizens that probation officers would watch him 24 hours every day for as long as he wears the ankle monitor.
The victim’s family, who recently moved out of Ansan ahead of Cho’s release, said nothing Cho could do could take away the years of pain suffered by Na-young.
“The most concerning thing is the fact that our children now will have to come across [Cho’s] horrifying face,” the victim’s father told the JoongAng Ilbo.
“It may be impossible for our children to avoid hearing about Cho Doo-soon in their daily lives, but we hope they know as little as possible.”
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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