The incidence of child abuse is increasing as the Corona 19 crisis is prolonged and children spend more time at home. Since March 2020, when online classes began, the number of child abuse cases at home has increased sharply by 83 percent compared to 2019. However, the number of reported child abuse cases was at the 50 percent level of last year from January to early May 2020. The situation in which children who should be protected and respected suffer from abuse and even death hurts our hearts. Let's find out the cases and problems that have come regarding child abuse and look for solutions.
The issues and current state of child abuse
The "Cheonan suitcase incident" made people aware of the seriousness of child abuse in South Korea in 2019. In December 2019, a 9-year-old boy died in a suitcase at an apartment in Cheonan, South Chungcheong. A 9-year-old-boy was locked up in a suitcase for three hours for lying and after he relieved himself there, he was locked in a smaller suitcase for four hours. The abuser performed brutal acts such as blowing hot air from a hair dryer into the suitcase and standing on the suitcase with her biological children. There had been reports of child abuse in this family for some time, and the child protection agency intervened, but the tragedy had already happened. Furthermore, the fact that the abusive stepmother was sentenced to 22 years in prison has made people even more angry.
According to the "Current Status of Child Protection Damaged by Abuse" released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, a total of 24,604 cases were reported and accepted as child abuse in 2018, which shows an upward trend since 2001. In addition, the percentage of abused children aged 6 or younger has increased by 23%. In particular, it should be noted that the proportion of infants less than one year old accounts for 2.0 percent of the abused children. Finally, it was found that more than 97% of victims were abused by parents or foster parents, and 82.0% of the victims continue in the ‘protection’ their families even when the abuse was confirmed. Furthermore, data compiled by the National Police Agency showed that 3,314 child abuse cases occurred between January and August 2020 when Corona 19 spread, a significant increase compared to the cases of child abuse reported last year.
The seriousness of child abuse
First, the difficulty of finding child abuse increases its severity. As social awareness of child abuse has increased, the government introduced an “e-child happiness support system” in March 2018. This advanced system discovers children suspected of being crisis situations through big data without anyone reporting them. However, face-to-face investigation has become more difficult due to covid-19, so only the investigation of 27,750 people, 27.04% of the total number of people (39,753) inspected in August have been completed. In addition, the number of reports of child abuse increased in January and February 2020 at the beginning of covid-19, but it is feared that the number may have decreased by more than 800 every month when covid-19 spread in earnest from March to May compared to the previous year. With the spread of covid-19, the decline in the number of reported cases, which had been steadily increasing, is likely not due to reduced abuse but due to the lack of proper detection. To make matters worse, as on-site investigations and case management have been replaced by telephone consultations, it has become more difficult to find cases of abuse that can only be discovered through face-to-face contacts. In this way, child abuse has become more serious because of the difficulty of discovery coupled with the spread of covid-19.
Second, there are limits to the national system and punishment laws. According to 2018 statistics from the Central Child Protection Organization of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 77% of child abuse perpetrators are parents of the victims. It is unbelievable that there is no law to sanction parental right. Thus, even if the police arrest the parents after receiving the report, there is no solution until the prosecutor requests that the parents must be deprived of custody. In child abuse cases that occurred before 2020, the victims were returned to their parents by "parent's reflection," "parent's request," and "mother's application to return to her home." In addition, the minimum sentence for a person who inflicts harm, physical disability, or incurable disease on a child is three years, and one for a person who kills a child is only five years.
“Abuse by parents” accounts for the largest percentage of child abuse cases, and parents can cause serious child abuse. According to statistics from the Central Organization for Child Protection in 2015, the majority of parents pass their stress from child care to their children due to the stress they experience when they are not familiar with appropriate methods of child care. As children grow, they sometimes complain and cry in the process of learning how to communicate, but they cannot understand the characteristics well, and their parents get stressed and angry, and abuse their children. For this reason, the public is raising their voices for the need to educate parents and enact legislation to correct parents’ immature views on child rearing.
What are the solutions to this worsening child abuse? Let's find out through foreign precedents that do not exist in Korea. Britain's Cinderella Act, enacted in 2014, is a law that punishes parents who commit emotional abuse such as not giving love and affection to their children. According to the BBC, the law extends the definition of existing child abuse laws to the "psychological damage" of children. Examples of psychological damage include trauma, fear that parents don't love themselves, and anxiety about possible abuse that may happen again. It is quite unusual to define the "emotional" part of abuse in detail, as in Britain.
Also in Korea, there are some movements to solve child abuse issues by holding a campaign or passing laws. Gyeonggi-do officials said that before the end of November 2020, they are planning to visit the houses of 526 children among vulnerable social groups who do not go to care institutes and to inspect nurturing environments to prevent children's care from being compromised. Korean National Police Agency is doing the 'DodamDodam’ campaign by putting up posters for reporting child abuse in convenience stores from mid-August 2020. Each convenience store is striving to eradicate child abuse by assigning notification duties to the employees and selling their products with prevention phrases. Not only surveys and campaigns, but also strengthening of law regulation is rising. On November 6th, 2020, the representative of the Democratic Party of Korea, Nak-Yon Lee, spoke in an on-line child abuse public welfare discussion which was held in parliament, “I will handle the legislation about child abuse as fast as possible for prevention of abuse and its recurrence.”
The child welfare law has the purpose of guaranteeing the welfare of kids by having them be born healthy and to grow safe and sound. This law is needed to correct laws that are not written properly, but for the childen’s bright future, first of all, we should change our perception and be cautious and attentive. Then we are sure it will be easy to solve the problems and make a much better world for children to live in.
고은, 김민지, 정서영, 윤현주, 윤연우 firstname.lastname@example.org
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