On April 1, 2019, a message was posted on the Blue House Petition Board entitled “Please establish a stern punishment and prevent the recurrence of the child abuse occurring by a babysitter involving a government child care service.” According to this post, the affair occurred in Geumcheon-Gu and it was revealed that the babysitter who was supported by the government abused a 14-month-old infant over three-month period. Many parents who heard this news were enraged with the inhumane deed and insisted that these crimes had been happening in the past. Also, they said that the child abuse crime should be punished more severely than in previous cases. What is the reason that the child abuse case has not been solved yet, despite there having been numerous child abuses cases in the past?
Child abuse means that someone mistreats a child physically, sexually and psychologically. Also, it involves not taking care of a child by leaving them alone. When child abuse is considered in terms of type, it can be distinguished into largely of two types. First, the child abuse is usually known as physical abuse to people. Physical abuse usually means hitting or assaulting someone and in child abuse, it means to hit or assault children. Secondly, there is the emotional abuse. Emotional abuse may involve comparing one child with another, or severely blaming or ignoring them. It also includes not giving physical affection such as kissing or hugging their children.
According to Jang Hwa-jeong, a director of National Child Protection Agency, the cause of child abuse is that adults usually think children are their own possessions. Also, she said in Korean TV(KTV국민방송) that “In case of child abuse, it often occurs by their own parents who became parents without preparation and the adults tend to abuse their children to relieve their stress”. Moreover, many child abusers' neighbors doubt the occurrence of child abuse around them, as they tend to overlook it or hesitate to report it. One of the reasons people do not report child abuse is that the standards of child abuse is ambiguous. Moreover, they usually think that concerning other people’s housework is interfering their private matters.
For these reasons, the report rate of child abuse crimes was low. As a result, the child abuse crimes have occurred constantly in the past. For instance, in January 2015, the child abuse crime occurred at a daycare center in Songdo, Incheon. Where, a teacher hit the head of a four-year-old child for not eating kimchi. Also, on March 2019, a child was assaulted at a daycare center in Gumi. These child abuse crimes can be attributed to a lack of protective agencies and experts to handle all abused children. In addition, the child abusers discourage the experts from investigating abuse by insulting or assaulting them. Since these practical problems have not been solved, there have been numerous child abuse cases so far and they have led to the child abuse in Geumcheon-Gu in these days.
According to the statistics released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the number of reports about child abuse increased more than tripled over the five-year period from 10,943 in 2012 to 34,169 in 2017. The child abuse crime increased gradually every year but the punishment for child abuse was still weak. For example, an investigation by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs found that only one in four assailants (about 25 percent) were convicted of the crimes. Even if the assailants were convicted, the maximum sentence was three and a half years. About 75 percent of child abuse offenders’ punishments were suspended or were mot fined.
Also, it has emerged that the government takes a passive attitude about child abuse as well as its lenient punishment. For example, in this infant abuse case in Geumcheon-Gu, the offender was punished with the suspension of qualification for only six months even if it turned out she assaulted child. Moreover, according to Rhee Esther reporter of Korea Joongang Daily, the government only focuses on increasing the labor supply, not on supplying labor force who can take care of children with responsibility. Regarding these government's measures, people argue that the government should come up with active and fundamental solutions, such as personality education for baby sitters and education for the prevention of child abuse, rather than expanding the supply of services.
To reduce child abuse crime, the government established a department dedicated to child abuse and a special law like the duty reporting system. According to this special law, all occupational clusters that can easily find the child abuse in their duties are required to report it. The obligator should report child abuse as soon as it is suspected or found. However, this system has the limitation that the obligators hesitate to report because the report procedure is complicated and they feel fear of the revenge. Because of these limitations, reported rates of child abuse crimes appear remarkably low. To overcome these limitations, the government has developed an application called “a child-protecting call 112(아이지킴콜112).” It provides a simplified reporting procedure through the checklist and has enabled people to actively report child abuse by ensuring anonymity.
In any case, the child abuse is never acceptable to anyone. In the case of child abuse, the attention of the people around them is needed to prevent it and punish it immediately. To solve the child abuse crime, the government should consider concrete solutions and stricter punishment for it. According to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, Articles 6 and 19 states that ‘a child has the right to protect and grow healthy his or her inborn life’ and ‘the government should make every effort to prevent parents or guardians of the child from using violence, abusing them mentally and physically, or not neglecting them’. Children should be respected for their own lives as independent personalities and have the right to be cared for by their parents and guardians. Child abuse must be eradicated from society and it is a social problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible.