A horrifying sexual assault on an eight-year-old girl by a habitual sex offender and the court`s lighter-than-expected punishment have severely jolted South Korean society, prompting even President Lee Myung-bak to express resentment during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, according to Yonhap News.
A 57-year-old man living in Ansan, south of Seoul, was recently sentenced by a district court to 12 years in prison for brutally beating and raping the girl, known only as Na-young, a first-grade elementary school student, after kidnapping her on her way to school in December last year.
As the Supreme Court Wednesday confirmed the lower court`s 12-year jail term for Cho, the South Korean public exploded with anger. Prosecutors had demanded a life sentence for Cho, who has a record of 17 previous crimes and spent three years in prison for rape years ago.
Nearly 300,000 angry netizens have signed a petition at an Internet portal site calling for capital punishment for Cho.
Amid the rising society-wide resentment, President Lee said he has been frightened and distressed by the Na-young case, as well as by the court`s ruling against the sex offender.
"I`ve been deeply saddened after reading reports of Na-young`s case. It is not easy to raise a question about the court`s rulings, but I think such a person (Cho) should be permanently separated from our society," Lee was quoted by his spokesman as saying during the weekly Cabinet meeting.