Home > Children, Women's Rights > No One Protected an 8-Year-Old Girl: The Theft of Innocence “Will the rights of criminals supersede the protection of children?”

No One Protected an 8-Year-Old Girl: The Theft of Innocence “Will the rights of criminals supersede the protection of children?”

Mon Jun 21  Ÿ  Ji-Su Park

On June 7th a girl was raped in Seoul by a mentally deranged man. This case, just four months after a teenage girl was raped in Busan, has sent alarm and concern throughout the nation. The girl was severely injured and underwent intense surgery in her anal and genital regions and is expected to undergo roughly 6 months of physical therapy and will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. This incident has incited citizens and the government is currently considering various ways to control sex crimes and strengthen school security via security cameras, electronic tracking anklets on offenders, and chemical castration.

The 8-year-old victim was kidnapped at her school in Youngdeungpo-gu, Seoul, by 45-year-old Kim Soo-cheol.  Kim, a day laborer who failed to find work that morning, was drunk and went into the school through the open gates to find the victim alone in the playground.  Kim blindfolded the girl and forced her to walk with him to his home by threatening her with a box cutter, and proceeded to rape the girl within the confines of his home.

When Kim fell asleep afterwards, the victim escaped and went back to the school where a teacher found her crying in blood-soaked pants and called the police.  The police began their investigation based on the victim’s testimony and the CCTVs around the school.

After the tragedy, the Seoul Metropolitan Board of Education immediately passed a 3.4 billion won ($2.8 million) budget on placing school zone patrols on weekdays as well as on holidays.  In addition, the municipal government is considering connecting its U-City children’s safety system with the Ministry of Justice’s electronic anklet system in order to notify teachers and parents when a convict with an electronic anklet approaches the premises of the school.

Moreover, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has now made it mandatory for visitors to wear name tags upon entering school grounds for 580 elementary schools in Seoul.  Visitors who wish to visit a student must register their names, contact numbers, reasons for the visit, and their relationship with the student.  However, it is still uncertain whether all the schools throughout the nation will adopt the system implemented in Seoul.

Regardless, many parents are angry at the fact that despite the recent child rape tragedies, the government has not installed enough CCTVs around schools. According to a report submitted by the Ministry of Education, of the 11,249 schools throughout South Korea, 4,494 schools still lack CCTVs or other security devices.

Given the situation, amendments to the laws against sex offenders have been lobbied aggressively by the populace.  The current law regarding the electronic anklet system, states that only the Central Control Center of the Ministry of Justice can track the electronic anklet system in order to protect the sex offenders’ privacy.  However, after Kim’s case, many people argue that the safety of the innocent comes before the rights and privacy of convicted sex offenders.

Within this debate also comes the discussion of the death penalty. As such a crime is matched with capital punishment in other countries, the debate rages on in regards to Kim’s fate. Pro-death penalty groups principally argue that by executing extreme criminals, many innocents can be protected.  On the other hand, anti-death penalty groups claim that life in prison also guarantees protection from future crimes by the apprehended felons.  Furthermore, the decision to kill is also heavily contested on both sides furthering the controversy regarding capital punishment.

An alternative to the death penalty was the proposal of chemical castration, which involves administering drugs to sex offenders or child rapists to weaken their sexual impulses. Detractors argue against chemical castration due to the temporary effects of the procedure and/or the violation of basic human rights of criminals. However, Grand National Party Rep. Park Min-shik’s chemical castration bill was recently passed by the national assembly by a sweeping vote furthering the focus of the majority upon the safety of the innocent over the rights of sex offenders.

Meanwhile, there are voices of concern regarding Kim’s mental disorders.  This child rape case was not Kim Soo-cheol’s first sex crime: Kim was imprisoned for 15 years after raping a woman whose husband was tied up with rope beside his wife in 1987.  After his release, Kim’s psychiatrist diagnosed Kim with paranoid personality disorder and depression.  Kim’s psychiatrist said to Kookmin-Ilbo, “People like Kim need healthy, sane people in their lives to reform them, but there was nobody for Kim.”

Others suggest that Kim was a monster created by society as a whole.  Lee Su-jeong, a professor of criminal psychology at Gyeonggi University, wrote to Segye-Ilbo: “We ourselves put our children in danger: our drinking culture, our popular culture in which even the teenage girls are in lingerie on stage, porn on internet that’s only one click away, and the online chat that creates an environment for sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors. Our everyday life is surrounded by such vulgar sex culture.”

In the end there is a girl in the hospital, a man in jail, and a country in fear of their children’s safety. ■

▲ On June 15, the child rapist Kim Soo-cheol is heading to his house with the police as he demonstrates his crime of June 7 at an elementary school in Youngdeungpo-gu, Seoul.

Categories: Children, Women's Rights
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