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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Herald on Oct. 6)

All News 07:03 October 06, 2016

Shame on society
Latest child abuse case exposes problems that should be addressed urgently

We have definitely become hardened to news stories about children abused and murdered by none other than their parents. Yet, the latest case in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, is shocking enough to make one shudder with rage.

This time, the victim is a 6-year-old adopted girl. The girl, according to police, was bound up with duct tape by her foster parents. She died, and they moved her body to a mountain and burned it.

Police said the victim's adoptive father, 47, and his 30-year-old wife told them they had tied her up with duct tape because she was "voracious and disobedient." They abandoned her for 17 hours, without feeding her.

Part of what happened after that was captured by a surveillance camera: The father carried the girl's body, wrapped in a blanket, down the stairs from his home, and his wife and a 19-year-old woman who lived with them joined him in his car to go to a nearby mountain. Police found remnants of the body and other pieces of evidence of their savage act.

To create an alibi, the three went to Incheon where a local festival was under way and reported to police and the girl's biological mother -- their neighbor -- that they lost her there.

Police said the Pocheon couple adopted the girl two years ago when her natural mother divorced and was suffering from financial difficulties.

The biological mother being one of the couple's neighbors, we cannot but raise a question: Why had the neighbors overlooked the abuse that must have been perpetrated for a period of time?

What's more than disturbing is that some neighbors knew about what was happening in the couple’s home. Some heard the couple's loud curses at the girl and noises of what they believed were them beating her.

The neighbors could have saved the life of the girl if they had done what any sensible member of society would, or should, have done.

The same is true of the staff at a day care center at which the girl had been enrolled. Police said the couple enrolled the girl at the day care center about a month ago, but she showed up only on the following day. The head of the center called the couple to find that she would not be able to come for the time being and simply removed the girl from the roster.

This shows that the government guideline -- mapped out in the wake of a recent series of similar cases in which children have been abused and murdered by adults, including their parents -- was useless.

It calls on staff at day care centers and kindergartens to visit the homes of children who do not show up for unclear reasons. If they fail to see the children, they should report it to authorities.

A recent government report showed that the number of reports made by teachers and medical staff regarding suspected child abuse during the first half of this year surged from 2,380 to 3,700, up 55.4 percent from a year ago.

But the Pocheon case tells us that we will never know how many more cases have remained in the dark.

Another loophole that should be plugged is the one regarding adoption made without the arrangement of an authorized agency. Adoption agreed upon by individuals -- as in the Pocheon case -- is not subject to such strict rules as those for adoption arranged by an agency.

For instance, agency staff should make at least four unannounced visits to the home of an adopted child each year. The Pocheon girl was out of the reach of this mandatory post-adoption monitoring program.

The Pocheon case and other similar past cases indicate that adoptive parents and stepparents may be more abusive than biological parents. Rules and guidelines aimed at preventing child abuse should reflect that.
(END)

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