The Korea Herald

피터빈트

Seoul introduces own version of 'Jessica's Law' to stem child sexual abuse

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : Oct. 24, 2023 - 15:27

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Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon speaks during a press conference held in the Government Complex Gwacheon in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, on Tuesday. (Newsis) Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon speaks during a press conference held in the Government Complex Gwacheon in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, on Tuesday. (Newsis)

The Ministry of Justice on Tuesday announced plans to deprive convicted child sex offenders of their rights to choose where to live after they are released from jail.

The Justice Ministry will propose a new bill aimed at restricting the civil rights of convicted child sex offenders at a Cabinet meeting, following a legislative notice to collect public opinions beginning from Thursday.

The government is looking to designate specific areas where those sentenced to 10 years or more for child sexual abuse or those who have repeated crimes at least three times are allowed to live. A court will have the power to impose the restriction, upon request from the prosecution.

The ministry says there were 325 offenders who would be subject to such restrictions as of end-2022. The government is working to have the measures apply retroactively.

The ministry also vowed to mandate chemical castration for serious child sex offenders.

Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon said Tuesday the measure is designed to allay "public concerns raised each time sexual predators get released from jail."

If approved by the Cabinet, the bill will go to the National Assembly, which will have to approve for it to become law.

The government expects the new bill to become a Korean equivalent to "Jessica's Law," a law in Florida that imposes at least 25 years of imprisonment on a child sex offender and requires those convicted to wear electronic tracking devices after their release, and which prohibits them from living within about 610 meters of schools and parks.

The announcement comes amid continued public uproar over child sex offenders' places of residence.

When notorious child sex offender Cho Doo-soon was released from prison in 2020 after serving a 12 year-sentence for raping an 8-year-old girl, neighbors reacted angrily to his return. As nearby residents are alerted by the government when someone convicted of child sexual abuse moves into their community, Cho and his wife were forced to move frequently.

Serial child sex offender Kim Geun-sik was due for release in 2022 after serving 15 years in prison, but was eventually kept in jail because of an additional offense.

Under South Korean law, sexual assaults against children or juveniles are punishable by at least five years of imprisonment. All convicted child sex offenders in Korea are now forced to wear electronic devices, and their personal information is revealed to the public on an online government registry when they are released from jail.

According to the latest data from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, convicted child sex offenders were handed less than four years in prison on average in 2021. Among them, sentences for those convicted of rape averaged five years and one month.