The suspect who attempted to kidnap an elementary schoolgirl is taken to Ilsan Police Station, Gyeonggi Province, after being arrested in Seoul, Monday. / Yonhap
By Kim Rahn
Police arrested a man who attempted to kidnap a 10-year-old schoolgirl in Ilsan, north of Seoul, Monday.
However, law enforcement authorities are being criticized for negligence in their reaction to the apparent kidnapping attempt.
Police detained the man, identified as Lee, 41, at a sauna in southern Seoul. He later confessed to the crime.
The attempted abduction was captured on closed-circuit television (CCTV) and broadcast nationwide to TV viewers. Lee threatened the girl with a knife and demanded she follow him into the elevator at her apartment complex around 3:45 p.m. last Wednesday. When she refused, Lee dragged her by the hair to the elevator, which had stopped on the third floor, hitting and kicking his victim.
The girl screamed for help and a neighbor on the first floor ran up to her. After being seen by the neighbor, Lee ran to the fourth floor, took the elevator down to the first floor, and ran away. The girl had hair missing and was bruised and battered.
Lee said that he was drunk when he was walking behind her. The girl gave him a suspicious glance, and he tried to tell her that he was not a bad person. He got angry at her attitude and beat up her, according to his testimony. Police are investigating the reason for this action.
He was previously in jail for 10 years for habitually sexually assaulting minors and was released two years ago, police said.
Police caught him after confirming through CCTV recordings in subway stations on line 3 that he took a subway train at Daehwa Station near the apartment complex and got off at Suseo Station.
Despite the arrest, police are being faulted for failing to react swiftly to the failed kidnapping and losing the chance to catch Lee earlier.
Her parents reported the attack to a nearby police office about 10 minutes after the incident. Police officers collected testimony from the parents and the neighbor and checked the CCTV recording in the elevator. Despite the apparent kidnap attempt, the officers reported to Ilsan Police Station the next day that it was ``just a simple assault case'' committed by a drunken man, based on testimony that he smelled of alcohol.
The day of the incident was the same day when the police announced a set of preventive measures against violence and kidnapping involving children, following the recent abduction and murder of two schoolgirls by a neighbor in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province.
With criticism growing, the police station launched a full-scale investigation three days after the incident took place, examining the CCTV recordings. The move came after the parents had already distributed leaflets about the incident to neighbors to try and apprehend the suspect.
Police are also suspected of having tried to cover up the case, after it was reported that they asked the girl's mother not to talk about the case to the media.
President Lee Myung-bak said that the public was incensed over the police's tepid attitude.
``As seen on the CCTV recording, it was really brutal. The state's utmost duty is to protect people's lives, but the police still show such an attitude at this time when many cruel cases remain unsolved and people feel angry at them. The police need to change,'' Lee said.
Kim Do-sik, chief of Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency, made a public apology. ``I apologize for the police's careless measures,'' he said.