The number of convicted child sexual abusers has been growing steadily over the past few years in South Korea amid lenient penalties against such crimes, a judicial report showed Friday.
According to the Supreme Court report submitted to Rep. Lee Tahney of the ruling Democratic Party, a total of 1,675 people have been found guilty of violating the Act on the Protection of Children and Youth against Sex Offenses by district courts from 2016 to June this year.
By year, 111 were convicted in 2016, 104 in 2017, 118 in 2018 and 182 in 2019. In 2020, the number more than doubled to 440. The number had also surged this year to 720 as of June.
Among the total convicts, however, only about 26 percent were imprisoned. The rest of them were delivered lighter penalties, including suspended sentences and fines, or were granted suspension of sentence.
The proportion of child molesters who received prison sentences rose from 18 percent in 2016 to 27.9 percent in 2017 but sank back to 19.5 percent the following year. The rate jumped to 39.8 percent both in 2019 and 2020, but plunged to 15.6 percent in the first half of this year.
The report also showed 790 people were convicted of child abuse over the same period. In 2016, 81 were found guilty, 124 in 2017, 116 in 2018, 178 in 2019 and 182 in 2020. This year, 109 had been brought to justice for the charge as of June.
About 23 percent were sent to prison for the crime over the years on average. The corresponding rate stood at 38.2 percent in 2016, 29.8 percent in 2017, 13.8 percent in 2018, 18.5 percent in 2019, 18.7 percent in 2020 and 26.6 percent in the first half of this year.
"Digital sex crimes, sexual exploitation against children, in particular, should be classified as grave offenses as they can cause great damage and be repeated easily," Lee said. (Yonhap)