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Child porn offenders could be sentenced to 29 years in jail

Sept. 15, 2020 - 15:20 By Park Han-na

The country’s highest court decided to strengthen sentencing guidelines for digital sex crimes Tuesday, enabling producers of child pornography to be punished by up to 29 years in prison.

The decision from the Supreme Court’s sentencing commission came following public outcry over lenient punishments handed down to offenders involved in child pornography here, compared to those in other countries.

The new guidelines recommend judges sentence people convicted of producing child or juvenile porn habitually to a prison term of at least 10 years and six months to up to 29 years and three months. The recommended jail time for multiple offenders is between seven years and 29 years and three months.

Conditions for aggravated punishments were attached that stipulate those who sell such content could face six years to 27 years behind bars. Distributors could be given jail terms of four years to 18 years and purchasers between one year and six months and six years and nine months.

The commission said the new guidelines, which it called more objective and fair, reflect the growing frequency of such illegal content-related crimes through digital media, including smartphones.

“The types of offenses are varied, and damaging content spreads rapidly online, which makes it hard for victims to recover,” it said.

If a victim suffers from serious damages due to the crimes, resulting in a suicide attempt or a family breakup, culprits could face additional penalty. Forgiveness granted to an offender by a victim will have little impact on reduction of sentence length.

The new sentencing standard will be finalized in December after a process of reviewing opinions from related organizations, public hearings, and administrative notices.

According to an analysis conducted by commission members, the average sentence for child porn offenders between 2014 and 2018 was two years and six months -- half of the minimum prison term of five years.

The current law has been criticized for incoherent rulings depending on which judge deals with the case as it covers a wide range of crimes with no specific sentencing standards, inviting debate over legal interpretation.

Lenient sentencing on digital sex crime has come into the limelight as hundreds of people worldwide have been arrested for their involvement in a South Korea-based website that sold videos of child sex abuse for digital cash.

The site‘s operator, Son Jong-woo, was released from prison after serving an 18-month sentence for violating the child protection and information laws.

The sentence sparked international uproar and was often compared to those who faced jail terms of five to 15 years in the United States for downloading the gruesome videos uploaded by Son.

On July 6, the Seoul High Court said it decided to reject a request from the US to extradite Son, citing the need of his presence for further investigation of users of the website and potential producers in order to eradicate child pornography here.

By Park Han-na (