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Chemical castration sparks controversy

Critics say new measure will not prevent child sexual abuse

Stephen Hong, Seoul

May 23, 2012

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The announcement that authorities this week will carry out South Korea’s first chemical castration on a convicted pedophile has prompted a backlash from Church leaders and social groups. The Justice Ministry announced yesterday it will chemically suppress the libido of a 40-year-old sex offender surnamed Park, the first such case of its kind after parliament passed legislation permitting the controversial measure in June 2010. Park is due to complete a 10-year sentence in July following a conviction for the attempted rape of a 10-year-old girl in addition to three previous prison terms for sexual attacks against minors. Theresa Kim Doo-na, coordinator of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, described the new policy as "a hasty measure announced without sufficient consultation with society.” The treatment, which is administered every three months for a period of three years and widely considered reversible, is based on the notion that "sexual violence is provoked by sexual urges," she said, claiming that this represented a misdiagnosis of the problem. “[Sexual violence] is not an action prompted by the impulse of the moment, but a carefully planned and continuous crime fostered by a distorted perception of sex and social attitudes that tacitly approve of violence," said Kim. Andrew Kim Duck-jin, secretary-general of the Catholic Human Rights Committee, said chemical castration would not reduce sex crimes, arguing society was temporarily patching up the problem by shifting all the blame onto offenders. “Other countermeasures would not work if such a strong measure is found to be ineffective,” he said. Chung Won-yong, a Seoul-based psychiatrist, said that chemical castration was a necessary measure in certain cases. “There are some sexual offenders who cannot be psychologically corrected,” he said, adding that safeguards must be applied to prevent misapplication. A Justice Ministry official who declined to be named said there was no cause for concern given that chemical castration would only apply on a case-by case basis following psychiatric testing. Ministry figures showed a 52.7-percent rise in sex offenses committed against children under the age of 15 from 1,282 cases in 2005 to 1,958 in 2008, the period prior to the parliamentary debate that led to the legalization of chemical castration.
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