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How should Korea combat paedophilia?

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012
The Korea Herald/Asia News Network
By John Power

Pedophilia ...

The debate has moved on from surgical castration. It is, however, worth considering the progression of the "debate" about how to deal with sexual crime. First it was long sentences and publishing details online; then it was chemical castration; but as that was deemed ineffective, physical castration was mooted; and now the debate has moved on to whether the best option might be the death penalty.

Recently, one of my Korean friends said that the only negative thing about Korea he could think of was that Koreans tend to latch onto something suddenly. He gave the example of the 2002 World Cup, when every Korean fell in love with football and as soon as it was finished, the stadiums lay empty for years.

This has been a problem in Korea for years, but like many Korean problems it is just not acknowledged. I can still remember in 2009 when a 50-something man raped an 8-year-old school girl, claimed he was drunk, and got 12 years in prison. There are numerous other examples in the last three years. There have been a number of movies dealing with this ― most effectively, "The Crucible."

In the last three years (or more) there should have been an ongoing public discourse about this problem, but there hasn't been. Welcome to the land of sporadic and sudden reactions: based on public consensus, we're probably going to end up living in one of the few countries that executes people. And, despite what Park Geun-hye spuriously claims about the death penalty being a deterrent, with this country's history of executing innocent people, that's not really a place Korea should want to visit again.

It's not the time for mob frenzy, protesting and browbeating. It's an (overdue) time for calm and slow, pluralistic debate. If only that could happen.

― Brian Arundel, Seoul, via Facebook

The parents have to teach them to stay away from dangerous situations with all strangers and people they know. Korean children are being taught to fear all foreigners yet Korean parents tell them not to fear Korean men ― even when they are drunk. That's setting them up for disaster. Plus, it's about time the Korean police cleared drunken Korean men from areas around schoolyards, parks and playgrounds. There's no excuse for allowing drunken men to lay around public areas, and this is especially true in areas where children go to school and play.

― Matthew Tildesley, Seoul, via Facebook

The most important thing is to stop claiming that strangers are the main danger to children. This is categorically wrong. Recent high-profile cases aside, only around 10 per cent of sexual abuse against children is committed by someone unknown to the child. Around 30 per cent is committed by family members and the other 60 per cent by someone known and trusted by the family. These figures are from Europe, but there is no reason to suggest they are markedly different in Korea. The tight and extended families here would suggest a similar, if not higher, rate of intra-family abuse.

So, once we can stop blaming dodgy drunks and shady-looking geezers waiting in the park, what can we do? Well, as intrusive as it might seem, the police need to have powers to investigate families with at-risk children. Having worked in schools in Korea, it is shocking how little power the local authorities seem to have to investigate families for cases of abuse. Until local authorities and social services are able to remove children from the primary site of abuse ― often the home ― or remove the abuser, then little will be done.

In the meantime, the media and the well-meaning public look for seedy drunks in raincoats lurking around swings at night, when the real danger for an abused child is when they return home and are "safely" tucked up in bed. That is the sad truth.

― Ennten Dal, Jeju City, via Facebook

To my knowledge Korea up until recent years had a culture were older men sometimes groped younger teens and it was more or less socially accepted, people just turned a blind eye to it. I believe it comes from the Confucian legacy where you obey your elders and not losing face were a vital part of your everyday life. Also I am certain that it is only recently a lot of rape cases get out in the open, because society is changing and people's perceptions are starting to change. Even in the most developed democracies like Sweden, very few rape cases become known to the public because the victim feels ashamed, I can only imagine that in Korea it is at least the same or much worse.

In order to prevent rape or pedophilia Korea should invest heavily in upgrading its counseling services and make it more accessible for the public. It is my firm belief that no one wakes up one day and thinks, "Today I want to rape an innocent child." It is something that is developed over time and if you could get some help then it can be prevented. Another thing that can help prevent pedophilia is to stop all the online forums that encourage such despicable acts.

What others have already said is the problem with roaming children in the night, and while it does produce opportunity, it is hard for a young child to know right from wrong even if they have been told never to follow strangers. I blame the parents who send their children far to attend hagwon (academies) which usually end late at night. It should be parents' or the hagwon's responsibility to take the children safely home (some do but not everyone).

― Jonte Hee Soo Am, Suwon, via Facebook

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