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30-year jail term confirmed for couple who starved toddler to death

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : May 19, 2023 - 14:54

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The Supreme Court has confirmed a 30-year prison term for a couple who abused and starved the woman's 2-year-old to death, upholding a lower court ruling on the case, local media reported Friday.

The 22-year-old woman and her spouse, 29, were accused of neglecting the child and her 17-month-old brother from October of 2021 to March 2022, during which they did not provide sufficient nutrition to the children. The girl died in March 2022 due to severe malnutrition and brain hemorrhage.

During the time, the man -- the girl's stepfather -- discovered the child passed out on the ground after eating a dog's feces and its food, but did not help the girl. He was also found to have physically abused the victim when she went through garbage to look for food.

The Supreme Court building in Seoul (Herald DB) The Supreme Court building in Seoul (Herald DB)

The autopsy on the child -- who weighed about half the average weight of children the same age -- found a single piece of carrot inside her digestive system.

Investigators found that the couple stopped feeding the girl altogether for about two weeks until her death, despite receiving a government subsidy of 350,000 won ($262) and alimony of 400,000 won from the child's biological father every month. While narrowly escaping death, the child’s brother was also severely malnourished and had been physically abused by the pair.

The two had been charged with violating Article 4 of the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment of Child Abuse Crimes, which states that murder by child abuse can be punished by at least seven years in prison and at most by death.

The mother claimed that the child's death was due to her husband's beating, not by starvation, while her husband said he was not the girl's biological father and should not be punished as the legal guardian.