By Lee Hyo-sik
Korea’s human rights watchdog said Sunday that it opposes the National Assembly’s move to strengthen the anti-sex crime law, arguing it could infringe upon the personal rights of sex offenders and their family members.
After reviewing a revised bill on the punishment of sex criminals, initiated by Rep. Kwon Young-se of the Grand National Party and 19 other lawmakers in July, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said disclosing the name, photo, address, age and other personal information of sex offenders to nearby residents is feared to violate their dignity and privacy, their family members and their neighbors with this revision.
Under the current law which went into effect in April, the government is obliged to notify nearby households with children under 19 via mail of the name, age and other private information of those who have been arrested for committing sex crimes against not only minors, but also adults.
But lawmakers proposed the revision in a bid to make more information public on sex criminals, such as a photo of where they are living and other neighborhood information, to better alert people living close to the offenders and reduce the number of sex crimes.
“It is not desirable for the revised bill to go into effect because disclosing large-scale personal data could infringe upon the human rights of sex offenders. The revision contains few measures to prevent such an abuse,” the commission said in a statement.
It also said the disclosure of personal information mandated under the current law is sufficient to identify sex offenders, adding the revision is feared only to further violate human rights of their family members. The commission was asked by the National Assembly in September to review the revised bill.
“We think disclosing private information of sex criminals is aimed to prevent them from committing crimes again. But the bill will merely punish them and their family members,” a NHRC official said.
In light of a series of sexual assaults against minors and women over the past years, civic groups and families of sex crime victims have been asking lawmakers and government officials to toughen punishment against felons convicted of rape and other sex crimes.
Among others, [name withheld], a convicted rapist, kidnapped a girl in June who was strolling across the playground of her school in Yeongdeungpo, Seoul, to attend an after-school class and raped her at his home. In February, a teenage girl in Busan was raped and killed by [name withheld], who has spent a total of 11 years behind bars for committing several rapes.
Since July, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has been operating a website providing personal data about convicted sex criminals, including a photo, address, age, height, weight and brief explanation of the offender’s criminal record and consequent court verdicts.
The Ministry of Justice has also been forcing thousands of sex felons to wear traceable electronic anklets.