SOUTH KOREA: CHILD ABUSE CAN NOW LEAD TO DEATH PENALTY
March 1, 2021:
South Korean lawmakers on 26 February 2021 passed a bill at the plenary session of the National Assembly to revise a law dealing with penalties for child abuse, making it possible for child abusers to be convicted of murder even if they did not intend to cause death. (Source: The Korea Herald, 28/02/2012)
The amendment, called the Jeong-in Act, is named after a 16-month-old girl who died after allegedly being abused by her adoptive parents.
Under the revised law, those who abuse children and unintentionally cause death can face the death penalty or imprisonment for seven years to life.
As it stands now, if a child is killed during abuse, the perpetrator can be sentenced to five years to life.
The bill passed amid growing calls for tougher punishment after a number of high-profile cases where children died of abuse. The number of child abuse reports is increasing every year, having nearly tripled from 11,700 in 2015 to 30,000 in 2019.
But it was not approved unanimously. Among the 254 lawmakers who attended the plenary session, 252 voted in favor, one voted against and one abstained.
Rep. Kim Woong of the main opposition People Power Party, who voted against the bill, said, “Tragedies like Jeong-in’s case will not be solved simply by raising the sentence.” Criminals commit crimes even if they know the consequences, the former prosecutor argued.
Kim blamed Jeong-in’s death on negligence of duty and violations of regulations by the police, saying the so-called Jeong-in Act lacked any mechanism to address those problems.