Enforcement should be conducted under strict rules
The government has decided to chemically castrate a 45-year-old repeat child molester, the first use of the punishment here since legislation authorizing the procedure took effect last July.
The man, surnamed Park, is due to be released from prison after serving 10 years in jail for the attempted rape of a 10-year-old girl. Park, who previously served three prison terms for sexually assaulting girls aged under 9 in 1984, 1991 and 1998, must receive injections every three months over the next three years to reduce his sex drive by manipulating his hormones.
The castration is inevitable given the severity of his crimes and especially because children were the victims. The punishment is applicable to offenders aged 19 and over who have committed crimes against children and minors under the age of 16.
The legislative move came into force after a series of shocking child sex molestation cases. In one of the most high-profile cases, a 7-year-old girl was brutally raped by an attacker in December 2008 in Ansan, south of Seoul. He received a 12-year jail term, too lenient a punishment given the seriousness of the victim’s injury ― her internal organs were damaged seriously and she had to undergo several major surgeries.
Most people strongly support harsh measures such as chemical castration against child molesters. In a survey conducted by Realmeter, a Seoul-based opinion poll company, more than 75 percent of 700 respondents agreed with a strong measure ― whether it is chemical castration or not ― against child rapists.
Chemical castration is also enforced in some European countries such as Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland and some states in the United States.
Yet castration is never a panacea to uprooting pedophiles. More than anything else, the measure could be in violation of human rights in that the treatment such sex criminals undergo does not require their consent. This could trigger calls that it is unconstitutional as it is a possible violation of people’s basic rights.
Experts also warn against possible side effects from the forced measure, noting that lung or liver diseases could develop. The millions of won needed to pay for chemical castration is also an issue to opponents who raise questions about why taxpayers’ money should be spent on a procedure that has yet to be proven conclusively effective.
The biggest question is whether or not chemical castration is effective.
Statistics from abroad show that crime recurrence rates ― when castration was applied or not ― made little difference with 17.5 and 11 percent, respectively in cases.
That is, a criminal’s characteristics and behavior do not change fundamentally and therefore, castration won’t deter molesters from committing crimes again. What is clear is that chemical castration should be conducted only when deemed necessary in consideration of the possibility of violating human rights. This means that the government should pay high heed when selecting those to be subject to castration.
In the long-term, social problems such as unstable housing conditions for the impoverished and negligence of children of dual income families need to be tackled.