Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae speaks during a ruling party-government policy meeting held at the National Assembly on Thursday. (Yonhap)
The ruling party and the government on Thursday agreed to push to introduce a 10-year maximum post-prison segregation program for criminals convicted of brutal crimes, amid mounting public concerns ahead of the release of a notorious child sex offender.
The agreement reached during a policy discussion meeting held at the National Assembly comes amid the nearing release of Cho Doo-soon, 69, one of the country's most notorious child rapists, from prison on Dec. 13. He has been serving a 12-year term for kidnapping and raping an 8-year-old girl in a church bathroom in Ansan, 42 kilometers southwest of Seoul, in December 2008.
A huge public outcry has erupted over what has been seen as too lenient a punishment for a horrendous sexual crime against a minor.
"The justice ministry reported on a plan to segregate ex-convicts of certain crimes such as child sex abuse, without elements of constitutional infringement and human rights violations," Rep. Han Jeoung-ae, policy chief of the ruling Democratic Party, told reporters after the closed-door meeting.
Han said the DP and the government will closely consult with each other on enacting the plan. The ruling party aims for a swift passage by the introduction of the bill by the DP members of parliament's justice committee.
According to the ministry's plan, convicts with high risk of relapse, such as those with records of murder and child rape and who will have finished serving more than five years in prison, will be subject to the program.
Under the plan, courts can sentence convicts who committed violent crimes to up to 10 years in special facilities before they are released from prison if they are deemed by experts of having high risk of criminal relapse.
The subjects may be exempt from the program when deemed free of such risk through pre-release prison assessments.
While the lawmaker noted the need to separate Cho and other horrendous criminals from society, Han said the envisioned law cannot be applied retroactively.
"We have pending bills in the justice committee that call for improvements in the management system of those who have already been released to society, such as Cho Doo-soon," Han said. "We will actively discuss such bills together as well."
Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon, floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), said in his opening remarks before the meeting that "over 110,000 people have responded to the proposition of enacting a 'Cho Doo-soon segregation law.'"
"In order to prevent criminal relapses of certain convicts, we must positively review new security measures that would socialize them in special facilities," Kim said.
Kim stated that the DP and the government should strictly limit the scope of subjects of such a program in order to dispel concerns of human rights violations. The floor leader also called for the adoption of humane treatment regulations in such facilities.
Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae said the government was preparing a human rights-oriented measure as part of its "restorative justice" program for horrendous criminals in need of treatment.
The minister said those who have either finished or are soon to end their sentences, including Cho, will be excluded, as it may lead to a controversy over whether it violates the Constitution. (Yonhap)