South Korea Confront Rapes After Girl’s Death

Jul 27, 2012 8:39am

A few years ago, a girlfriend of mine reported to the police after being raped by her date. I accompanied her to the police station and was shocked that they literally laughed at her for coming in.

The officers just could not understand the concept of rape. Since it was her date and she only had few bruises on her wrists, they described it as “wild sex” and recommended that she go home and rest.

Women’s rights groups in South Korea often complain about how police consider domestic violence as a domestic matter. Horrible stories of women and children being beaten up by the husband or f ather while police sit back are often told in Korean media.

This week the country is once again grieving over a death, a 9-year-old girl allegedly murdered by her neighbor Jeom-Deok Kim.

Kim, 45, is accused of raping the girl in his car and at his home where he lives with a Vietnamese wife and a 3- year-old daughter in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang province. He then strangled her and buried the body in the mountains, according to police reports.

The girl’s death has prompted Korean media to call for harsher punishment for such crimes. For example, a repeat sex offender in Korea would get four to nine years in jail. A repeat sex offender in the U.S. could expect to get between 10 and 45 years,  according to Chosun Ilbo.

The most shocking part of the accusations against Kim revealed by the media so far is that he has given his victim and other neighborhood children rides to schools in the past. But no one knew that he was a repeat sex offender with 12 prior convictions. Kim was not registered on the child sex offenders list that the government had begun to publicly post in January 2010.

Kim’s last conviction was in 2005 when he tried to rape a 62-year-old woman after beating her up with a rock. Such crimes normally get seven years to life sentence in jail, but Kim served only four years given consideration that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time.

This case is raising alarms, perhaps a good sign, that the visitors to public website www.sexoffender.go.kr is surging. Before news of the murder, the site generated only an average of 10,000 daily visitors. Since then, millions have been clicking everyday.

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