According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, this year 19,489 sex crimes have been reported. There were thirty-two sex crimes reported in the subway in the first quarter, but this increased to one hundred and eighty six times by the second quarter. The reasons why the trend has continued seems simplistic enough: weak punishment and ineffective measures. First, the degree of punishment has been insufficient. In particular, child offenders are only sentenced to 3.5 years in jail on average. Also, according to several press, because agreements that victim forgives criminal because of fear and exposing her terrible story to the world can be reached, this often lead to future offenses and additional victims. If the criminal’s sentence is reduced, he may receive a suspended prison sentence or may only be punished with a fine. This has occurred 54.2% of the time. Second, electronic anklets worn by sex offenders have proven to be not effective. Convicted sex criminals must wear electronic anklets that identify their location; however, these anklets have several problems. The anklet is operated by GPS, so a criminal wearing the anklet an descend into a cellar and his location can be quite unclear, and they can easily be removed. Third, a website that notifies of sex offenders’ personal information has been created but is imperfect. The site is called ‘Sex Offenders Notification-e,’ which informs others of sexual criminals who have been convicted since the site was created. Thus, the site excludes all of those criminals who were convicted before the site was created.
With new heightened awareness of sex crime, the sales of self-defense gadgets have dramatically risen such as sprays, warning devices, and tear gas guns. Women are the main consumers. In fact, in Auction, a notable online open market, the sales of self-defense gadgets rose by 25% this July and August in comparison with this time last year. Likewise, in 11st, an online open market, the sales increased by 55% in comparison. A female college student said, “I moved to a new house and I came back home from school late at night. I had to consider the importance of self-defense gadgets to protect me from the pervs who may live just next door.”
Smartphone apps to prevent sex crimes have also grown in popularity. There are some applications: Return Home Helper (siren, recording system, location detection), Voice Guard (acts as if you are talking on the phone.), All-that self-protection (you can learn various self-defense skills.) Another female student said, “I bought Return Home Helper. The instructions are very simple. First, I choose a phone number that I can call in the case of a dangerous crisis. When I shake my phone, my phone automatically connects with the selected number.”
With the increase in sex crimes we sat down with Lee Yoon-ho, a professor of Police Administration to hear his views.
Q.What do you think about the current government response in regards to sex crimes?
A. Let me say three things. First, ‘Sex Offenders Notification-e’ has several problems. The number of sex offenders is insufficient. In particular, we cannot see the offenders’ information at any time, anywhere. Like in the U.S., we should see it in real-time. Second, an electronic anklet’s function is to provide the offender’s location, but we can not observe his actions in any detail. Finally, chemical castration also has some weak points - human rights abuse, expensive costs, and manpower shortages. Like in Canada, the treatment should be expanded. In fact, in Canada this has reduced the second conviction rate from 24% to 5.6% through patient specific treatment.
Q. These days, the National Assembly will push ahead with ‘an offense subject to complaint’ (If a victim does not let the world know of the incident and her agreement with offender, the offender may not be sentenced with actual punishment. When this happens, do you agree with the lack of penalty?
A. No. Sex crimes are not only one individual’s problem but also a social and national problem.
Q. What do other countries do?
A. In the U.S. and Switzerland the average sentence is about 10.5 years. In China a death sentence is possible. Relatively, Korea’s punishments are rather weak.
Q. What is the motivation that can make a normal person come an offender?
A. Manifold. Abnormal sexuality, Lolita complex, and copycat crimes. A disturbed background like in the case of t he serial killer Yoo Young-chul, who was sexually affronted in his childhood.
Q. Usually, sex offenders have mental disorders as motivation. In this case, what should we do for punishment?
A. If mental disorders are the prior motivation, and then these are feeble-minded persons. The punishment is reduced, but mental treatment will still have to be done.
Q. Lastly, what is your solution to these problems?
A. First, a social safety net is needed. The government should expand crime prevention and strengthen police patrols in order to allow women and children to live securely. Both strict penalties and special mental treatments must be given to offenders. In addition, women must come to understand that sex crimes can happen to anyone and protect their bodies.
In order to prevent sex crimes, we should promote awareness. Also, the government must do more: stronger punishments and more effective measures. It is time to strongly respond to the exploding number of sex crimes.
Kim Kang-su email@example.com
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