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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 19)

All News 07:08 January 19, 2016

Protecting children
: Time to pay more attention to abuse cases

A string of horrendous incidents involving children is causing shock waves.

Police detained a married couple in their 30s last week over the alleged death by neglect of their son, 7, in 2012. The father allegedly cut up the body and stored the parts in a refrigerator at home.

According to police, the father told investigators that his son tripped and fell unconscious while being dragged into a bathroom. The couple did not take their son to hospital and neglected him for a month before he died in November 2012 at his home in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province.

The father never reported the death to police and kept the body parts in the freezer for nearly four years.

The couple had no history of mental illness, and it is shocking indeed for these seemingly normal biological parents to commit such a horrible crime. The court issued an arrest warrant for the mother, who failed to report the death. She faces charges of child abuse. The father faces charges of manslaughter and mutilating a corpse.

Yet many questions remain unanswered.

First and foremost, when the child died is in doubt. The father said his son died in November 2012, but the boy stopped going to classes just one month after entering an elementary school as a first grader in March that year. This raises the possibility that the son may have died earlier than the parents claim.

It also remains mysterious why the father dismembered his son's body. It is even more outrageous that the father took the body parts with him when he and his family moved in 2013.

The revelation of this incident is the result of a nationwide investigation into all schoolchildren absent from school for more than a week, following another high-profile child abuse case in Incheon last month. In that case, a father was arrested for confining and abusing his daughter, 11, at home for more than two years, rarely giving her anything to eat.

If this incident had not been uncovered, the boy's death might have remained hidden. All this shows that our society is still in a pitiful state of not protecting our children enough.

The boy's school allegedly sent letters to his home twice in May 2012, but did not get any reply. The following month, teachers visited the home, but to no avail, and little has been done since then. The education authorities did nothing, either, although the abused girl in Incheon was absent from school for a long time.

Lessons from these incidents are evident: Make it obligatory for schools to report to police or child care agencies if children are absent without clear reason and parents are not contacted.

The Ministry of Education said about 220 other children across the nation had been missing from school for unknown reasons, which raises concerns that there might be many more similar child abuse cases.

The government should map out a comprehensive package of measures aimed at preventing child abuse. But even more important is for all of us to pay more attention to what is happening around us.

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