The wave of sex crimes seems to reflect a desensitivity to the act among
teenagers. Crimes occur both in and out of school, including some cases in
which students pimp out female classmates and collect the money.
Korean teens in sexual assault
An analysis by the Chosun Ilbo of recent sex crimes among teenagers shows that
the crimes often follow a similar pattern. The chain begins with Internet sex
chats or sexual conduct. Then the attacker threatens to publicize the victim's
indiscretions, which leads to one-on-one sexual assault. That is followed by
repeated threats, then sexual assault in groups.
A cruel and concentrated attack on a female student followed just this process.
"A," a 16-year-old high school student from Gwangju, met "B," a female junior
high student, in an Internet chat room. After conversing online, A threatened
that he would reveal the contents of their chats and forced B to have sex with
him in a school restroom. A later repeated his threats and raped B 11 more
times, sometimes with his friends.
Rapes often involve groups
Another aspect of teenage sex crimes in Korea is that they frequently happen in
groups. Some 50 percent of teenage rape cases occurred in groups, compared to
30 percent for adults. Experts say that this tendency is higher in Korea than
in other countries.
"The strong group culture among Korean teenagers makes it easier to get
involved in group crimes," said Professor Cho Ah-mie from the Youth Education
and Leadership Department of Myongji University. "Committing crimes together
reduces individual feelings of responsibility and morality, which makes it
easier to participate in sex assaults without feeling so bad."
Teenage sex offenders also tend to be more violent than adult sex offenders.
According to a study by the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, 98 teenage sex
offenders, or 45.6 percent, committed aggravated rapes, gang rapes or combined
burglaries and rapes in groups. For adults, the number of such criminals was
616, or 31.7 percent.
Younger sex offenders
Meanwhile, the average age of sex offenders is decreasing. The number of sex
crimes committed by teenagers younger than 14 more than tripled from 14 cases
three years ago to 42 in 2006. During that same period, the number of sex
crimes conducted by 14-year-olds more than doubled. In contrast, sex crimes
committed by 19-year-old college freshmen during that period declined by 3.6
percent. Of all the teenagers convicted of sex crimes last year, 284 were
third-year junior high school students while 240 were college freshmen.
Criminals don't feel guilty
Another disturbing aspect about Korea's teenage sex offenders is that they are
feeling less guilty about their crimes. The National Police Agency and a team
from Kyonggi University headed by Professor Lee Soo-jung conducted a study on
six junior high sex offenders involved in a gang rape. The offenders scored 55
points on a test that measures anti-social feelings, where anything more than
50 points is considered highly dangerous. And when it came to how guilty the
offenders felt about their crimes, their scores were just 37 to 47 points.
Won Hye-wook, a law professor at Inha University and a former researcher at the Korean Institute of Criminal Justice Policy, blamed the Internet. Teenage sex offenders feel less guilty about their crimes because they frequently visit pornographic websites, he said.