First use of forced medication may trigger dispute over rights violations
By Yi Whan-woo
Korea will use chemical castration on a convicted repeat child molester for the first time, an official said Wednesday.
The Ministry of Justice said the process will start Friday at the earliest for the 45-year-old man who was convicted of four counts of sexual assault on girls under 13.
This will be the first case of chemical castration on a child molester since the bill was passed in July 2011.
“The man fits all the categories for the forced medical treatment,” said Kim Hee-gyung, a prosecutor at the Crime Prevention Policy Bureau under the ministry.
The law states a convict may be subject to chemical castration if they have the potential to commit sex offenses against minors repeatedly. The potential subjects are ones who have assaulted children aged under 16 and are diagnosed with pedophilia, an intense sexual desire toward children.
The man, surnamed Park, committed sexual assault against minors four times since 1984. Three of the four victims were 10-year-old girls, including one whom he dragged to a deserted plant on Aug. 2, 2002 and abused sexually and also attempted to rape. He was diagnosed with pedophilia upon a medical examination undertaken by a ministry request.
The Medical Treatment and Custody Deliberation Committee under the ministry can force such pedophiles to undergo medical treatment two or three months before they are released from prison.
Park was sentenced in November 2002 to spend 10 years in prison.
Park will be given injections or pills designed to suppress his libido every month for the next three years. He also will be required to attend a cognitive behavioral therapy session for regular checks-up on his mental state at a branch office of the deliberation committee. The committee will also have Park wear an electronic tag to keep him away from areas frequented by children including schools, and also to monitor his night activities.
Park has the right to request for the cessation of treatment every six months, according to the ministry. It will go over improvements on his condition as well as his life pattern to make the appropriate decision.
The ministry cited cases overseas and said in statement it is hopeful for a reduction of child molestation through this approach.
“European countries including Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland as well as some states in the United States including California, Oregon, Iowa, Louisiana and Florida have been running this program,” it said. “And in the case of Oregon, those 79 child molesters who underwent chemical castration between 2000 and 2004 never re-offended, while 10 of 55 who refused to do so committed sexual assaults again.”
The ministry put aside any concerns on Park, stressing that any related medical tests were completed in advance.
It, however, refused to give much detail on his response about the forced chemical castration.
“I believe prison authorities have notified him about chemical castration by now, but I can’t be more specific on that,” said Kim.
Another official, who said he interviewed Park before the ministry’s decision echoed the same view. “He wasn’t happy, and that’s all I can say.”
However, the first case of chemical castration is likely to trigger controversy over human rights violations and potential side effects of the forced medical step.