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(Yonhap Editorial) Punishment and chemical castration is not enough to prevent sexual abuse of children

All Headlines 18:14 May 23, 2012

SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) -- For the first time in Korea, the Justice Ministry has ordered a convicted child molester to undergo chemical castration.

The ministry’s panel on medical treatment and custody deliberation decided Monday to administer a combination of medicines designed to suppress the sexual urges of a 40-year-old man, surnamed Park, who was convicted of four counts of sexual assault against children. In addition to the medication which will be administered for three years, he will undergo behavioral and psychological therapy, it added.

The ministry's decision was in accordance with the law on the medical treatment of sex offenders which passed the National Assembly in June 2010. The law allows forced medication for up to 15 years of sexual offenders aged 19 or above, who victimized minors under the age of 16. Implementation of the law was, however, delayed for more than a year because of opposition from some civic groups and academics who cited a lack of social consensus and the possibility of infringing on the human rights of offenders.

Those who raised the human rights issue insist chemical castration is another punishment and not a treatment because it is implemented without first getting the consent of the offenders. The Justice Ministry, however, explained the implementation of the law is a measure to protect society from pedophiles who have the high potential to recommit similar crimes.

The ministry also takes the position there is no need to get the consent of a pedophile to implement such treatment because it is ordered under a court ruling following the judgement of a psychiatrist.

The government has made steady efforts to prevent sexual violence against children. The law allowing the application of electronic anklets on sex offenders was implemented in November 2008 and was revised to extend the period it can be ordered to be worn from 10 to 30 years.

Another law allowing the personal information of sex offenders of children made publicly available was passed on March 16 this year. Punishments for the sexual abuse of children have also become heavier.

Sentencing offenders to heavier punishments and administering chemical castration of offenders, however, both have their limits in preventing sexual offenses against children. The government should make efforts to solve systematic problems such as environments that make the occurrence of such crimes easier, including unsafe living conditions of low-income earners and the children of working couples being left alone.

Rather than approaching the issue of sexual violence against children simply as individual crimes, the government need to solve the problem with comprehensive measures targeting security and social welfare.

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