It's been a bad week in South Korea. A spate of horrifying attacks have filled the newspapers. The crimes appear to be brutal and abhorrent but more worrying is there frequency. Concerns over public safety were already high after a slew of random attacks. One included a convicted sex criminal who attempted to rape a woman while wearing his electronic tag. The attacker stabbed her in his attempts and she tragically died. With this in mind the government revealed new plans to increase the use of chemical castration on sex offenders. Chemical castration being a controversial form of treatment to lower users sexual desires. In an attempt to widen the use of this method they hoped to add more protection to women and children. Unfortunately, days after the announcement, an even more horrifying case was brought to light.
Naju, a city in the South-West of Korea, has been scarred by a recent brutal attack on a 7 year-old. 25 year old, Koh Jong-seok, abducted his neighbours 7 year old daughter from her home and brutally raped her. Koh had earlier been playing video games in a local PC room with the mother and were said to be on good terms. However after he left early he contends his urges took over him and he took the child away causing her severe emotional and physical damage. The mother arriving home around 2am was not aware the child was missing until she awoke later the same morning when she phoned the police. The child was located only 425 feet from her home naked and wrapped in a blanket. The child, once discovered, was immediately rushed to hospital and treated. The savagery of the attack has appalled the nation and more is being demanded to try and cease the wave of attacks that keep springing up.
Koh's excuse of being drunk is not an unfamiliar defense. A similar case in 2008 shocked the nation as Cho Du-sun got a reduced sentenced for being intoxicated. Despite raping an 8 year old and destroying a horrifically high proportion of her colon, genitals and intestines he managed to escape with only a 12 year sentence and having to wear an electronic tag for 7 years. Within Korean law a court can reduce the sentence if the accused was drunk as it makes them both "weaker mentally and physically" thus less responsible for the crime. In 2008 President Lee Myung-Bak expressed disappoint in the ruling and was left to rue another similar incident this week. He issued another apology to the nation recently declaring:
"I can't tell you how sorry I am before the nation and the victim's family... Beefing up public security will be the top priority of the government."
In the past few days the government has expanded yet more policies to try counter the issue. The Ministry of Justice is looking at revising laws to allow more offenders to be given chemical castration in order to halt their sex drives. Further improvements have also been mentioned in trying to monitor sex offenders newly released from prison. Despite the announcements more cases are appearing in the media. As more crimes are occurring, more efforts are being rolled out to try counter the crimes in what seems a more proactive move. In the last few days further efforts to crackdown on the possession of child pornography have been announced. Along with this the police arrested a man running a website that connected users with prostitutes and was funded by pimps.
There have even been efforts to tackle a pillar of business culture in Korea. Many companies broker deals in establishments known as 'room salons'. These rooms provide predominantly business men with a smoky atmosphere to drink and be wine & dined Korean style. Women serve the men, flirt & chat with them. Unfortunately they also have a reputation of unofficially offering other services that a man may desire to purchase. These types of rooms and this type of environment are in the realm of what the recent policies are attempting to tackle. Despite being common and widely used, as politician Ahn Min-seok claimed as much as 65.3% of expenditure for activities at night on corporate credit cards went to these pricey establishments, the government may begin to consider them a hindrance to social well being. In the future instead of retroactive attempts to solve the issue, e.g. chemical castration, they may want to consider applying more stringent rules on these types of businesses and look at eradicating the initial stages of sexual deviancy. Within the past few days the police did shut down one of the largest 'room salons', in an affluent district of Seoul, who were found to be providing illegal prostitutes. This move from the government could be a hollow publicity attempt to show they are a trying to have a strong response to the recent attacks. Public demand and upcoming elections force the government into showing a stern retort to the issue but it will take a longer more painful internal dialogue to address the issue if attacks continue to occur at their current rate. The recent deluge of acts and arrests certainly can't promise to solve the root of these attacks but if the attempts reduce the frequency they'll be deemed a success.