By Lee Hyo-sik, Kang Shin-who
Schools across the country are scrambling to come up with effective measures to prevent sex crimes against the young students on their premises, in light of many recent sexual assaults against minors.
Some have installed security grilles in class windows to stop possible sex offenders from entering the building and closed unguarded school gates to ensure the safety of school grounds. Others have hired more security guards to conduct closer surveillance of school grounds. Some schools have even banned male parents from entering the school premises.
But the majority of parents still feel uneasy about the safety of their children at school, saying more has to be done to stop sex crimes against children. Some parents have bought their children cellular phones and even accompany their kids to and from school.
Alarmed by a chain of brutal child rape cases, elementary and middle schools across the nation have started taking a host of steps to prevent students from falling victim to sexual assaults, while they are in school.
"Our teachers are paying extra attention to security for students before and after class. We also increased the number of surveillance cameras, and expanded the scope of monitoring around the school," said Jung Kyu-hyuck, vice principal of Kyonggi Elementary School in Seoul.
These measures came after high-profile sexual attacks against minors by middle-aged men. On June 7, Kim Soo-chul, a convicted rapist, kidnapped a girl who was strolling across the playground of her school in Yeongdeungpo to attend an after-school class and raped her at his home. The assailant left the girl in a critical physical condition. Kim was caught just 10 hours after he committed the attack near the crime scene.
In February, a teenage girl in Busan was raped and killed by Kim Gil-tae. In December 2008, an elementary school pupil was beaten unconscious and raped by Cho Doo-soon who was sentenced to 12 years in jail by the Supreme Court last September.
Besides these well-known cases, many more minors have fallen victim to sex offenders over the past few months, forcing the police and the National Assembly to take drastic steps against those who victimize children.
Most parents continue to be anxious about the safety of their children, while they are outside the home.
"We need to be more concerned about the security of our children and the government needs to spend more money in hiring security guards for schools," said Chang Eun-sook, chairwoman of the National Association of Parents for True Education.
A 40-year old mother whose daughter goes to an elementary school in northern Seoul said it has become an extremely daunting task to raise her daughter in Korea, due to frequent sex crimes against underage girls.
``Last week, I bought her a cellular phone in case she needs to call for help. I also attached a location tracking device to her schoolbag. I always tell her not to follow strange men,'' the parent said. She then said more police officers should be mobilized to patrol schools and adjacent areas to detect and apprehend possible sex offenders before they assault children.
On Monday, the police declared war on sex offenders targeting children, pledging to augment the manpower to root out sexual violence against minors.
Police Commissioner General Kang Hee-rak said the police will double the number of investigators in special squads to about 160 across the nation from the current 80.
He also promised to make sex crime investigations a priority, and senior officers will lead the operations, while making personal information and data of sex criminals, including their age and the type and frequency of their offences, available to the public at police stations in districts where criminals under surveillance reside.
Additionally, the National Assembly has passed a bill, legalizing chemical castration for convicted pedophiles in a bid to prevent them from repeating sex crimes against children.