Child pornography poorly monitored

The government has come under fire for its lax monitoring of child pornography, considered one of the root causes for surging crimes against minors.

Public calls are growing for a stricter crackdown on child porn especially after it was found that a man who confessed to the murder of a schoolgirl in Tongyeong early this month had hundreds of child porn video clips on his computer.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission said Sunday that it had acted on only 31 cases of child porn circulated on the Internet this year _ a very small figure considering the commission takes administrative measures against tens of thousands of online Internet sites and hosts annually.

Since 2009, the commission has cracked down on 228 child porn cases online _ 199 on domestic websites and 29 on overseas ones. It made the domestic site operators delete the postings and system operators block access to overseas sites.

Contrary to the small number of actions against child porn, the commission took measures against 31,280 other illegal cases during the first half of this year.

The government is moving to strengthen punishment for the making or distributing of child pornography.

After a meeting with related ministries, the Prime Minister’s Office said Thursday it is considering raising the maximum jail terms for people producing, importing and exporting child pornography to 10 to 20 years from the current five.

The prison term for those distributing, lending, screening and keeping content for such purposes may also increase to up to 10 years from the current seven.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of people punished for having child pornography is on the rise, from 12 in 2009 to 40 in 2010 and 65 last year.

Commission officials say they have difficulty cracking down on child porn because such material is uploaded and then removed in a short period of time.

“Unlike other online pornography, child porn is usually posted and removed soon. It is not easy to collect evidence,” an official said.

“Also we are supposed to punish people for information currently circulated online. So even if we collect the evidence, many of the cases are just rejected because they were circulated, and has already been removed from the Internet,” he said.

He pointed out the commission is short of staff monitoring child porn circulation.

Among the commission’s 30 monitoring staff, 15 are dealing with content regarding the sex trade, adult and child pornography and school violence.

In February, the commission started working with portal site operators, which blocked 16 child porn sites separately from the commission’s crackdown.

“Peer-to-peer (P2P) sites are the main channels of child porn distribution. We are urging site operators to strengthen their own monitoring,” the official said.

In the recent case in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, the suspect, Kim Jeom-deok, allegedly attempted to rape the 10-year-old girl before strangling her to death.

According to a joint study by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the Korean Institute of Criminology, sex crimes against minors have grown rapidly here over the past years. In 2008, 8.6 sex crimes against minors were reported per every 100,000 people in Korea, compared to 6.2 cases in the United States, 5.1 in Britain and 1 in Germany. <The Korea Times/Kim Rahn>

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