The justice minister vowed Friday to get tough on child abuse and come up with preventative measures amid escalating public anger over a woman who beat her 8-year-old stepdaughter to death.
"The government will sternly punish child abusers, work out various countermeasures and do all it can to better protect children," Hwang Kyo-ahn said during a policy consultation meeting at the National Assembly between the government and the ruling Saenuri Party.
He said the justice ministry will make full preparations for the smooth implementation of a law on preventing child abuse, which is scheduled to go into effect in September.
Under the law that passed in the parliament in December, those convicted of having abused children to death should be sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison and up to life imprisonment.
Those involved in serious abuse that threatens the lives of victims or leaves them disabled or with hard-to-treat illnesses will be punished with at least three years in prison, according to the law.
Police said they were considering having existing probe teams specializing in sex abuse against children and the disabled at provincial police agencies to also take charge of child abuse cases.
"The special probe teams would have a better understanding of cases involving children as they are in charge of child sex crimes. We're pushing for ways to have them look into mistreated children," a source at the National Police Agency said, adding that such a plan was reported to the government-party consultation meeting Friday.
Public outrage over the issue soar(ed recently after a woman allegedly kicked her 8-year-old stepdaughter to death in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang Province, last year. It was later revealed that the stepmother had also coerced the victim's 12-year-old sister to lie and claim responsibility for her sister's death.
In October, another 8-year-old girl was beaten to death by her stepmother in Ulsan.
According to the National Child Protection Agency run by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, a total of 97 children were abused to death from 2001 through 2012. But the agency estimates there are likely far more such deaths that were not reported.
"I cannot stop from feeling disconsolate because of the two recent miserable cases of child abuse that took place in Ulsan and Chilgok," Hwang said during the meeting. "I reflected on myself if the government set up and implemented its policy in a somewhat careless manner," he added. (Yonhap)