Ministry overhauls sex crime laws

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Ministry overhauls sex crime laws

Sex offenders will be prosecuted even if a victim fails to file a complaint, the Ministry of Justice announced yesterday.

The ministry announced about 150 new laws or revisions related to sex offenses, including exempting them from the chingojoe system from tomorrow.

A chingojoe offense could not be prosecuted without a complaint by the victim.

The revisions will also end a statute of limitation for rape and murder of children aged 13 and under.

The government said it wanted to beef up punishment of sex offenders, especially those targeting minors.

The main change is abolishing the chingojoe system for sex-crime cases, which was established in September 1953. Sex crimes were only prosecuted when a victim officially filed a complaint to investigating agencies.

In January, Park Jun, who runs one of the largest beauty parlor chains in the country, was accused of raping a female staffer.

The staffer told prosecutors that she didn’t make a complaint because she was afraid of losing her job.

When the case was reported in the media, a number of additional women accused Park of rape. The case was closed by the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office because the victim dropped the charge by mutual agreement with Park.

Chingojoe was adopted in order to protect the privacy of victims. But it also encouraged rapists to bully their victims into not reporting them.

“We found that so many female sex crime victims had trouble accusing their offenders because they feared them,” said Baek Mi-sun, head of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center.

“Only about 10 percent of sex crime victims report their cases to investigation agencies due to such difficulties,” he said.

The chingojoe system was strongly impacted by the Cho Doo-sun case - Cho raped an 8-year-old girl in Ansan, Gyeonggi in 2007, causing her to lose 80 percent of her colon and reproductive organs - and the 2011 movie “Dogani,” or “The Crucible,” which was based on a true story of sexual abuse at a school with hearing impairments.

The chingojoe system for sex crimes against disabled people was abolished in 2011.

Other changes to the law will allow people to be prosecuted for raping a male for the first time in Korea. The revised law extended the range of victims and uses the word “person” rather than “female.”

The ministry said punishment for male rape will be at least three years in jail and both men and women can be prosecuted. Transgender individuals are also covered.

“Since women’s social status has been constantly improved, men need to be protected from sex crimes,” a spokesman of the Justice Ministry said.

Punishments for sex offenders targeting children have been increased in the wake of shocking offenses such as the case of Kim Jeom-deok, who murdered a 9-year-old elementary school girl from his neighborhood in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang, after a failed rape attempt.

The revised law allows a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for offenders who rape a child or produce, import or export child pornography.

People possessing child pornography can be sentenced to a term of up to one year in jail, which is up from the previous maximum fine of 20 million won ($17,700).

Measures to prevent crimes and support sex crime victims have been strengthened as well.

Information on convicted sex offenders will be kept by the government for 20 years after a conviction, up from 10 years.

BY SHIM SAE-ROM, KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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