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Tougher rules for sex crimes on disabled

Complaints no longer required for prosecution; first-time offenders to be tagged


Sexual crimes on the disabled will be prosecuted with or without the victims’ complaints and first-time offenders will be bound to wear electronic tagging devices under toughened rules unveiled by the government Friday.

Because prosecution of sexual crimes cannot proceed without complaints by the victims under the current law, the victims were often paid off by the offenders to agree on a settlement.

Prodded by a public resentment sparked by the box office hit “Dogani,” the Prime Minister’s Office announced a set of measures against sexual crimes on the disabled. Most of the measures are already in a bill submitted to the National Assembly by lawmakers last year.

The film is based on a true story about a series of rape and other sexual assaults by faculty members on students at Inhwa School, a special education institution for the hearing-impaired in Gwangju, for five years from 2005.

Inhwa School will be shut down and the state sanction on the social welfare corporation named Wooseok that runs the school will be nullified, Yim Jong-yong, minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, said in a press briefing.

“All the necessary steps for legislation will be taken within the ongoing National Assembly session,” Yim said.

Whether to scrap the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against the disabled, however, will be subject to further discussion.

A prosecution investigation found 10 teachers at Inhwa involved in the crimes, but only six of them were indicted as parents of some of the victims did not press charges. Of the six, two received no punishment as the statute of limitations on their cases had expired and another two were given a suspended sentence. Only two were sentenced to jail terms of one year and two years, respectively.

Under the plans announced Friday, school faculty members slapped fines for sexual violence will be disqualified as teachers.

The government will also add coerced adultery, which does not require proof that the victim was unable to resist, to the list of sexual crimes against the handicapped, Yim said.

The current law acknowledges rape only when the victim was found to be in a state where resistance was impossible, stirring criticism that offenders are often nominally punished.

The government is set to submit to the National Assembly next month a bill that raises the jail term for rapists of the disabled from three to at least five years and allows the prosecution to seek a court order for an electronic ankle bracelet to be attached, starting from first-time offenders.

The government will also push for a revised bill which obliges registered social welfare corporations to name outside directors and disclose certain information to raise their transparency, Yim said. The government had failed to make the revision in 2007 due to opposition from the ruling Grand National Party and religious groups.

While taking steps to shut down Inhwa School as soon as possible, the government said it will arrange for 15 of its 22 students to transfer to neighboring schools and the remaining seven, who live in Inhwa, to move to another facility.

The teachers implicated in the sexual assaults will be barred from teaching for good, and a thorough investigation will be launched into the possibility of additional crimes and other irregularities of the school.

Facilities found with similar cases in the ongoing nationwide inquiry on institutions for the disabled will be closed down, Yim said.

The government will also introduce a system to provide victims of sexual violence with legal assistance, hire more sign language interpreters for investigations, and expand the counseling and medical treatment services for the disabled.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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