Seoul toughens on school sex violence

Seoul toughens on school sex violence
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The South Korean government said Friday that teachers who knowingly conceal sexual violence in schools can face expulsion from their posts, in response to a recent sexual harassment case at a Seoul high school involving five teachers and over 100 victims.

In an unscheduled meeting presided over by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, the officials agreed to revise the law on education civil servants ― referring to teachers at primary and secondary education ― to beef up the punishment against sexual abuse.

The revision will also include immediately removing a teacher accused of sexual abuse from his or her post, and mandating the school committee reach a decision on the punishment within 30 days, shortened from the current regulation of 60 days.

Under current law, the school officials can remove a suspected sex offender from the teaching post only after he or she has been indicted by the authorities. The law was revised earlier in the year ― to become effective November ― to remove the supposed offender after a police investigation had commenced.

But the nationwide furor that has sparked in light of the recent scandal pushed the government to further revise the law.

"The reoccurring sex crimes at schools raised concerns among the public, especially parents, and we need to look into countermeasures that are thought to be too lenient," said Hwang at the meeting.

The government also will disqualify those convicted of sexual crime from applying to become public officials, teachers or soldiers. They can also be fired immediately upon being fined for sex crimes. The current law stipulates one has to receive a prison term to be fired.

Officials said they are pushing for a particularly strict punishment against teachers, including ex post facto punishment. For example, if a certified teacher ― who received his or her license after the law revision is passed ― has been found to have committed sex crime in the past, he or she will have his or her license revoked.

Sex offenders will also be banned from returning to a teaching post.

Seoul police and education office are currently conducting an investigation into claims that five teachers at a Seoul-based high school were involved in multiple sexual crimes on female teachers and students at their school for over a year. Over two dozen teachers and students were reported to have been molested, while over 100 students were said to have been harassed.

The school's principal is among the five being probed by the officials, although he has repeatedly denied charges and claimed this is a set-up by those opposing him within the school.

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