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Pedophiles to be chemically castrated

Critics raise issues on human rights and effectiveness of the measure


The chemical castration law took effect on Sunday, targeting those who commit sex crimes against children younger than 16 and who are also likely to be repeat offenders.

The Ministry of Justice announced Friday that it will implement the chemical course on sex offenders up to two months before being released from prison and within a maximum 15 years of their crimes.
Kim Young-moon, an official of the Justice Ministry, briefs reporters on sex impulse drug treatment of pedophiles at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Thursday. (Yonhap News)
Kim Young-moon, an official of the Justice Ministry, briefs reporters on sex impulse drug treatment of pedophiles at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Thursday. (Yonhap News)

With the law going into force, Korea has become the first Asian country to approve chemical castration for sex offenders.

When the bill was proposed in 2008 to treat habitual sex assailants, it required their consent, but after a spate of serious sex attacks on minors enraged the public, the bill was revised to drop the phrase of “the treatment requires concurrence of criminals,” and then passed the National Assembly in June 2010.

The nature of chemical castration was changed from treatment to punishment in consideration of public outrage at pedophiles.

Some civic groups and experts in legal and medical fields say the measure violates the human rights of sex offenders and the concept is not yet socially accepted or understood nationwide.

“The treatment is actually a punishment in disguise unless there’s consent from the criminal,” said Sohn Dong-ho, a psychiatry professor of Yonsei University. “It seriously violates human rights.”

“It’s questionable whether the law will be as effective as expected. Sex crimes will not be completely solved by only punishing the heinous criminals,” Yang Hyun-a, a professor of Seoul National University Law School said.

But an official of the Justice Ministry say that the law is designed to protect children from sex crimes and create a bright society where they can grow up healthy without being violated by sex crimes.”

Chemical castration refers to the administration of drugs to repeat sex offenders or pedophiles to temporarily weaken their impulses.

About 100 offenders are expected to be eligible to receive such punishment every year, about 20 percent of total sex offenders. The number in 2008 was about 500.

Whether a sex offender will receive the punishment will depend on the results of psychiatrist interviews and diagnosis and other mental and physical evaluation methods.

The offenders will also receive behavioral and psychological therapy designed help correct their distorted perceptions of sex and aggressive impulses.

The offenders targeted for the penalty are expected to be given the drugs two months before prison and will be injected with drugs designed to reduce sex drive, compulsive sexual fantasies and sexual arousal. Whether to discontinue the treatment will be decided every six months after behavior evaluation.

The Justice Ministry estimates about 5 million won ($4,800) will be spent on each sex offender. The cost will break down into 1.8 million won for drug treatment, 500,000 won for hormone and side effects tests and 2.7 million won for psychological therapy.

Five countries ― the U.S., Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Poland ― have implemented chemical castration on sex offenders.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)
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