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Rape of seven-year-old girl prompts outcry

Alarm over sharp rise in sex crimes

President Lee apologizes to the nation about a recent wave of sex crimes (courtesy of the Presidential Office) President Lee apologizes to the nation about a recent wave of sex crimes (courtesy of the Presidential Office)
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • September 3, 2012
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A series of sex crimes, including the kidnap and rape of a 7-year-old girl last week, has shocked the nation, prompting President Lee Myung-bak to offer a public apology.

A girl was abducted from her home Wednesday night in the southern city of Naju and raped, allegedly by a 23-year-old man with the surname Ko who lived 300 meters away from the victim’s house and is known to the victim's family.

The girl was found Thursday on a riverside road with her intestines ruptured.

Lee visited the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) in Seoul as public outrage mounted. “On behalf of the government, I offer words of apology to the people,” Lee said on Friday.

The girl was reported missing Thursday morning, police said, and found that same afternoon about 200 meters away from her house. She was transferred to a hospital and received emergency treatment for a ruptured colon and damage to her sexual organs. She remains in hospital.

According to the police, there was child pornography in Ko's house.

The case came only days after a 42-year-old convicted sex offender wearing an electronic anklet attempted to rape and then killed a 37-year-old woman in Seoul.

In July, a 45-year-old man under police surveillance kidnapped, sexually molested and killed a 10-year-old girl in southern city of Tongyeong.

These brutal crimes have horrified the nation and raised calls for harsher punishment for sex offenders.

Yesterday the KNPA ordered police nationwide to restart random checks on people, which it stopped two years ago after public criticism that it infringes human rights.

According to the KNPA, the number of sex crimes was 19,489 last year, a 6.7 percent increase from 2010. Of them, the number of sex crimes against child under the age of 12 was 949.

Most sex crime offenders are “outsiders who do not actively participate in community activities and have low self-esteem,” said psychiatrist Chung Won-yong.

They usually commit sex crimes against minors whom they can easily control as “they are afraid of rejection in adult relationships,” Chung said.

Kwack Dae-gyung, a professor of police administration at Dongguk University, said these sex crimes always raise calls for tougher punishment but “local society’s generous attitudes to sex crimes is a major obstacle to reducing sex crimes.”

The Naju incident is reminiscent of a 2008 case in which a man brutally raped an 8-year-old girl, leaving permanent deformities in her colon and sexual organs.

The court commuted the criminal's sentence from life imprisonment to 12 years in jail, saying the man was drunk.

Choi Young-ji, an activist at the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, said that 80 percent of sex crimes are committed by relatives or neighbors and only 10 percent of victims go to the police.

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