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Anger Growing Over Lax Monitoring of Sex Offenders

Posted March. 09, 2010 09:59,   


Public anger is growing over lax monitoring of convicted sex offenders after their release in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of a middle school girl in Busan.

The prime suspect in the crime, Kim Gil-tae, 33, whose 13-year-old victim Lee Yu-ri was found dead eleven days after her kidnapping, had been convicted twice for sexual assault.

Many say Lee’s death could have been prevented had authorities had kept a close watch on Kim after his release. Many loopholes also prevent the disclosure of information on those who commit sexual crimes against children and teenagers.

Another negative factor is the wide dispersion of government authorities in charge of following up on sexual offenders.

○ Number of searchable sexual offenders online: 0

A Web site linked to the Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry supposed to show a list of registered sexual offenders had no names as of yesterday. Under the revision to the law on protection of children and teenagers in June last year, the ministry set up the site to register convicted rapists` information including names, age, residence, height, weight and photo. People over the age of 20 are allowed to look up such data.

The site, however, has proven useless in doing its intended task. Moreover, adults who are not used to surfing online find it hard to search for information since multiple verification processes are needed before they can access the information they want.

One reason for the empty list is that information on sexual offenders is available only on those who were convicted after Jan. 1 this year. Thus, data on an offender convicted of committing a crime against children under age 13 cannot go on the Web site if the crime was committed before December last year.

Authorities decided to upload the information online to ease the inconvenience of parents or school authorities of having to go directly to police stations to search for such information, and the data was also limited to crimes committed in the region.

Many blame the law revision for failing to do its purpose since the government did not want the rule to be retroactively applied.

A ministry official said, “If the revision pending before the National Assembly`s Legislation and Judiciary Committee is passed, punishment for sexual offenders and prevention efforts against a recurrence will be strengthened. We are not, however, considering disclosing data on sexual offenders online that is available at police stations since this could spark controversy over retrospective legislation.”

The revision requires authorities to notify by mail the crime of a convicted rapist living near households with children.

○ Inefficient follow-up measures

District police offices are responsible for following up on convicted sexual offenders. For example, police must keep track of offenders’ up-to-date whereabouts by seeing them once every three months.

Police must also provide information on sexual offenders convicted before December 2008. The number of convicted rapists whose information is searchable at police stations has more than doubled from 147 in April last year to 328 last month.

Gyeonggi Province showed the highest number of convicted rapists with data available online with 64, followed by Seoul with 44, South Jeolla Province 34, and Busan 30. The Seoul wards of Nowon, Gangbuk and Dongdaemun and the Sangnok ward of Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, had the highest number of searchable convicted rapists with four each.

Separation of roles in monitoring convicted sex offenders also poses a major problem. The Internet search system for sexual offenders is run by the ministry, but the Korea Probation and Parole Office under the Justice Ministry is in charge of putting electronic monitoring bracelets on convicted rapists.

Different ministries are also responsible for anti-sex offender laws. For example, the ministry holds jurisdiction for the law on protection of children and teenagers, so it only asks for consultation with the Justice Ministry for revision.

The law that stipulates punishment for sexual offenders and protection for the victims, however, is under the Justice Ministry’s jurisdiction, adding to the confusion. The needed cooperation by the two ministries is rarely seen when it comes to revising laws on strengthening punishment for sexual crimes or widening the scope of legal application.

○ Sex offenders against women

With sex offenders slowly shifting their target victims from women to children and teenagers, the Justice Ministry is also considering disclosing data on sexual offenders who habitually target adults.

A Justice Ministry official said, “The suspect in the (Busan girl’s) case also had past record of sexually assaulting a woman in her 30s. Thus, we’ll consider disclosing information on those who prey not only on children and teenagers but also on women in the long run by looking at overseas precedents.”

National Police Agency Commissioner Kang Hee-rak told reporters yesterday, “We will come up with measures to manage not only child molesters but also all sexual offenders one-on-one with a dedicated police officer.”

Police introduced the one-on-one management system for child molesters in November last year and assigned one officer to each habitual child molester in all districts nationwide.

They will also classify sexual offenders in grades and keep track of them every one to three months depending on grade.

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