Experts debated a controversial law designed to protect children from sexual abuse for its vague definitions and harsh punishment on those who own or circulate child pornography materials.
Democratic Party Rep. Choi Min-hee, who proposed a revision to the Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles from Sexual Abuse regarding child pornography, held an open discussion with law professionals and culture critics on Monday.
In the current bill, those who possess adult materials containing characters perceived as a child and juvenile, including virtual characters, can be subject to severe punishment. The panel of experts argued that the legal definition is too vague and it could lead the police and prosecutions to make arbitrary decisions.
“People shouldn’t be punished by ambiguous regulations,” graphics animation columnist Seo Chan-hwe said. “How can you tell the age of an animation character that never really exists?”
The stern punishment of the crime is also facing criticism. Any offender charged with rape faces a three-year jail term. But one who possesses, distributes or produces child pornography, including virtual versions, could be put behind bars for more than five years, plus undergo electronic tagging of up to 20 years and job restrictions for 10 years.
“After the law was revised in 2011, the number of sex crimes against children surged 22-fold from 100 to 2,224 a year,” said Park Kyung-sin, Korea University law professor who participated in the discussion.
“The rapid growth is not because actual sex crimes have increased, but because the police captured more offenders based on the new act,” Park said.
By Park Han-na