The number of prison sentences for sex crimes against children and adolescents are on the rise, but more than half of the offenders ended up getting probation, according to government data released on Thursday.
According to an analysis of court records involving sex offences targeting children and adolescents, there were 2,671 perpetrators and 3,503 victims in total in 2021. This analysis includes the data of sex offenders whose personal information was registered in 2021. The analysis was conducted by the Korea Institute of Criminology and Justice at request of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.
In terms of crime type, forced harassment was the highest at 35.5 percent, rape accounted for 21.1 percent and crimes related to sexual exploitation content accounted for 15.9 percent.
More than half of the child sex offenders, 52.3 percent, received probation as a penalty, followed by 39.5 percent of prison sentences and 7.9 percent of fines.
In particular, the proportion of prison sentences for sexual exploitation crimes among child sex offence cases rose from 2 percent in 2014 to 40.8 percent in 2021.
Meanwhile, the digital sex crime sector targeting children and adolescents has expanded significantly as of late. Among digital sex crimes, 51.6 percent were explicit photo shoots, 44.2 percent explicit video shoots, and 3.1 percent were insulting graphics edited into victims’ pictures. Among the perpetrators who created insulting images, 20 percent also threatened the victims by saying they will spread the pictures, and 18.9 percent of the perpetrators actually distributed such content. Among distributed sexually explicit content, 49.7 percent included enough personal information -- such as the victim’s face or name -- to identify them, nearly doubling from 25.4 percent in 2019.
Some 14 percent of the criminals were minors under the age of 19, and 12.9 percent of criminals were recidivists with similar criminal records. As for the victims, 91.2 percent of them were women, the average age was 14.1 years old and 25.6 percent of the victims were under the age of 13.
In more than half of the cases, 60.9 percent, perpetrators were acquaintances of the victim. They were total strangers in 23.4 percent, and 9.2 percent of the perpetrators were family members or relatives of the victim. Internet chatting was the most frequent first point of contact between perpetrators and victims.
This year, the Gender Ministry plans to promote the first survey on the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, while strengthening cooperation with related organizations to support counseling for victims and to guarantee their "right to be forgotten" from online spaces where their images have been circulated.
Meanwhile, an amendment to the Youth Protection Act passed the plenary session of the National Assembly on Thursday. The revised bill added several institutions that children and adolescents use -- including multicultural family centers and counseling centers for sex crime victims -- to the list of facilities where released child sex offenders cannot be hired or approach. This amendment will take effect in six months.