The police said Monday they would increase manpower to fight sex crimes over the next three years after a series of sexual assault cases sparked widespread public concern.
The National Police Agency plans to launch exclusive units for sex-related offenses at 250 police stations across the country and will dispatch a total of 879 police officers to the special investigative teams, officials said. So far, sex crimes have been handled by three separate units ― the public safety division for preventive measures, detective division for investigation, and woman and juvenile affairs division for protecting victims.
The planned unit will take full charge of the three tasks to more actively and effectively deal with sex-related offenses, officials said. The unit will cooperate with other teams in tackling sex crimes related to murder and burglary cases. The police previously launched special investigative teams for designated sex crimes cases involving children and the disabled at its provincial offices. But the new unit to be installed at local police stations will cover overall sex-related offenses involving adults without disabilities and will be tasked with protecting and supporting victims.
Starting with Gwanak Police Station in western Seoul, the police will test run the new investigative system next Monday for three months. The team will be composed of 12 investigators and female police officers, the agency said.
After the trial, a total of 294 officers will be assigned to sex crime units by the end of the year and the rest by 2015, it added.
The move comes after a number of high-profile sex crimes against women and children and with President Park Geun-hye declaring war on four major social ills including sex crimes. A total of 22,935 sexual harassment and assault cases were reported to the police last year.
Experts said that Korea has been quite “generous” toward sex criminals. But society is now calling for a change after a series of sex crime cases involving social elites, they added.
Former Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Yoon Chang-jung is accused of sexually harassing an intern hired to help him while he accompanied President Park during her first visit to the United States. Former Justice Minister Kim Hak-ui resigned from his post in March after some media raised allegations that he received sexual services from women hired by a local construction contractor. Hallyu star Park Si-hoo and renowned hairdresser Park Jun were also accused of raping women early this year.
“Many people have started to take sex crimes more seriously since last year after the Naju case of a 24-year-old man brutally raping a 7-year-old girl. But recent cases involving high-profile figures have contributed in promoting social awareness that sex crimes are not tolerable,” Lee Hyun-sook, a counselor to sexual assault victims, said.
Yoon’s case, in particular, has raised questions about the frequency of sexual harassment at work places.
Of the 1,152 petitions filed to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea regarding sexual harassment and assaults between 2005 and 2012, more than 60 percent were cases of sexual assault between superiors and subordinates at workplaces. More than 60 percent of alleged perpetuators were representatives of organizations or businesses, or mid-level managers, the commission said in its recent report.
Perpetuators, particularly those in high positions, are often free of guilt because they commit sex crimes not knowing how serious they are, Lee said.
“They think they won’t be punished because most cases happen in secretive places and also because they don’t think using people (in lower position) for their sexual desire is a problem,” she added.
By Cho Chung-un (email@example.com