South Korea: Child rapist’s release sparks demand for change

The reduced sentence and subsequent release of a man convicted of raping a child has raised fresh debate around South Korea’s legal system.

Twelve years ago, an eight-year-old girl was walking to school in Ansan, south-west of Seoul, when she was kidnapped by Cho Doo-soon, 56, an ex-convict. He took her to a toilet in a nearby church, where he brutally beat and raped her. The girl survived, but she still suffers physical injuries and mental trauma from the attack.

Now, she has had to move: her rapist has been allowed to return to Ansan. His new home is less than one kilometer from her house.

Cho’s case sparked massive criticism of the country’s judicial system for being lenient on sex offenders. An appeals court reduced his jail term from 15 to 12 years, as he claimed he was drunk when he raped the girl. That’s because in South Korea, penalties for crimes committed under the severe influence of alcohol carry far more lenient punishments.

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