First-time child porn offenders face indictment

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Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - The prosecution has decided to indict even first-time violators of the law banning the possession and distribution of child pornography as part of the government's war against sex crimes, officials said on Wednesday.

It is illegal to possess child porn in Korea, but only a few perpetrators have been punished for it. In particular, those caught sharing and downloading the obscene material for the first time were often suspended of indictment.

The Supreme Prosecutors' Office said it will apply "zero tolerance" to any offenders found to have downloaded child porn on the Internet, even if they have deleted the files.

Prosecutors will also question those who allegedly produce, distribute and cater child porn under detention. Distributors of adult porn material or those who have previous convictions for distributing lewd files will also be arrested, they added.

The prosecution also said it will toughen punishment on juvenile offenders by imposing conditional indictment suspension that enforces proactive counseling or send them to reform school.

The police have been also intensifying crackdowns on child pornography uploaded and shared on the Internet.

Internet pornography has been blamed for a recent spate of sex crimes on children and women that have triggered public uproar. The suspects of child rapes in Naju and Tongyeong were both child pornography addicts.

In a related move, the government said it will install surveillance cameras in about 3,980 "vulnerable" areas around the county.

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security has allocated 61.5 billion won ($55.3 million) to its budget for next year to increase the number of CCTV cameras and launch control centers to monitor local neighborhoods. The ministry plans to establish crime control surveillance centers in 230 districts across the country by 2015.

Experts raised the need to improve security at schools, neighborhoods and other public areas.

According to a survey by the Korean Education Development Institute, security devices such as surveillance cameras and monitor screens at schools did not work properly. In a site inspection on two elementary schools in Gyeonggi Province, KEDI researchers found many of the surveillance camera lenses were hidden behind tree leaves and monitor screens were too small to detect incidents.

Calls have arisen to improve public security and prevent sex crimes, especially those against children, after a series of violent crimes were reported.

Last week, the police arrested an 18-year-old man for breaking into an elementary school and injuring six students with a toy gun and shovel. A mentally disabled man was also arrested on Monday for stabbing a woman to death at a marketplace underpass.

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