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South Korea: Multiple Legislative Actions Against Sex Crimes

(Aug. 20, 2010) In 2010 alone, the National Assembly of South Korea has taken five legislative actions against sex crimes and for the protection of the victims thereof; the adoption of three new acts and the amendment of two existing ones. The steps were taken in response to the sharp increase in sex crimes in the country, especially serial rape incidents, in the past few years. Some of the victims, including pre-teen children, were subsequently murdered. The total number of rapes in 2008 had increased by 46% compared to 2004, and rapes against children under 16 years of age had increased by 81% in the same years. (Supreme Prosecutor┬┐s Office, ANALYTICAL REPORT ON CRIMES 170-171 (2009) and 162-163 (2005).)

Most notably, the Act on Pharmacologic Treatment of Sexual Offenders' Sexual Impulse (Act No. 10371 of July 23, 2010) was passed to authorize the courts to order hormonal treatments of persons convicted of sexual crimes, including first-time offenders, who are at least 19 years of age and show symptoms of sexual deviancy. Such treatments are expected to lower the level of the sexual impulse of the treated and therefore help them to be better able to resist it. Treatment orders can be issued for a maximum duration of 15 years; if ordered against the convict's will, the government must bear the expenses. The convicts ordered to be treated may petition for withdrawal of the order every six months. The Act comes into effect on July 24, 2011.

The Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles from Sexual Abuse (Act No. 10391 of July 23, 2010) was amended to mandate, among various other protective measures, the Minister of Gender Equality and Family to release the personal information of sexual offenders if the victim has not attained a full 19 years of age. The amended portion of the Act comes into effect on August 24, 2010. For cases in which the victims are not less than 19 years of age, the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment of Sexual Crimes (Act No. 10258 of Apr. 15, 2010) was passed to impose the same duty on the Minister of Justice, from April 16, 2011.

The Act on the Electronic Monitoring of Special Criminal Offenders (Act No. 10257 of Apr. 15, 2010) was amended to apply retroactively to persons who have been already released after serving a prison term for sexual offenses. Those who fit certain criteria under the Act are ordered to wear a specially designed electronic device on the ankle so that the police can detect their location at all times. The maximum duration of electronic monitoring is increased from 10 years to 30, and the minimum duration for each specified offense may be doubled if the victim is a child under 13 years old. The Act has been in full effect since July 16, 2010.

Lastly, the Act on Prevention of Sexual Crimes and Protection of Victims (Act No. 10261 of Apr. 15, 2010) provides a variety of preventive and protective measures that cover the family members of the victims as well as the victims themselves. The Act comes into full effect on January 1, 2011.

Written by Helen Lee, Intern, Law Library of Congress, under the guidance of Sayuri Umeda, Senior Foreign Law Specialist.