By Anthony Hegarty
ORIGINAL ARTICLE CAN BE READ ON THE KOREA TIMES SITE: https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2012/09/137_119665.html
Several years ago I wrote an article in this paper (“From sexually abused to abusers”) after a violent eroticised attack on a young girl.
I stated that the mass media coverage of such crimes was useful because it reminded us that the types of people who reside inside the prison system also reside outside it, although in greater numbers. Now hasn’t that turned out to be the truth!
The article also stated that whilst violent sex crimes against children are tragic, such crimes were very rare, and despite the recent cases they remain very infrequent and should not be classified as “a social problem.” However, still lacking proper attention are the “silent” sex attacks by relatives, family friends and others with access to children who gain their trust in order to abuse them.
The sexual abuse can go on for years with the child too scared to say anything. It is these type offenses, in fact 95 percent of sex offenses against children, which are usually underreported and attract minimal media attention. There are negligible reporting avenues for young children and education for them to understand that they can get help is essentially non-existent.
In light of the recent spate of attacks the police have come out in force to stop and search men, presumably at random, which is probably illegal, to ascertain, I believe, whether or not they are violent sex offenders.
Compare this response to recent cases of non-violent sexual assaults against young children where one offender arrested in Daegu was allowed to leave the country while “the matter was being investigated,” who hasn’t been seen since; and another who was allowed to re-enter Korea in order to take legal action against the individual who had exposed his past as a child sex offender causing him to flee the country. Both individuals were working here with children!
It is right and proper that violent crimes be dealt with effectively but it is wrong that so little is done to prevent and or investigate the vast majority of these child sex crimes which are often perpetrated by pedophiles who have developed a friendship with the family in order to gain access to the child, in the same way that they seek employment where they would come into contact with children.
In the most recent case in Naju we are told that the offender had developed a relationship with the child’s mother prior to the offense, although whether he is a pedophile or a psychopath remains to be seen as the behavioral patterns are very different.
The public understandably demands tougher sentences but this might be something even the presidential candidates are reluctant to promise which could be why they talk of what they “are considering doing” and not what they “are going to do,” because even if the will existed to imprison all sex offenders they will not be able to do so.
If recently reported data is correct, then 9,574 individuals who have committed sex crimes are at large in the community. I would suggest the number is far higher given the number of unsolved and unreported crimes.
According to the International Center for Prison Studies, as of June 30, 2012, the Korean prison population stood at 44,731. The capacity is 45,690 inmates, thus the prison system is already operating at 97.9 percent occupancy.
Accordingly, if Korea wants to imprison all sex criminals they will have to implement an expensive program of prison construction and then add to that the cost of running them, something it may not want to do at this time.
Thus, we have to continue to share our communities with these unpredictable offenders under the guise of “rehabilitation in the community.”
In the previous article I also stated that reporting systems needed to be improved to allow children to report incidents of sexual abuse because unless they do then some of them will go on to become sex offenders themselves and this is a ticking bomb waiting to explode. Judging by the number of sex offenders we now have it may well be that that bomb has already gone off.
Now that, I suggest, is the real social problem!