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Police Act To Protect Rape Victims

from The Korea Herald

Under heavy fire over its handling of a gang-rape case involving 40 high-school students, the National Police Agency announced yesterday that from now on only female police officers will investigate victims of sexual violence to prevent possible human rights violations.

The authorities also said investigators would use interrogation rooms with video recorders during questioning of victims in police stations.

The NPA unveiled its new rules and other measures after it came under fire from the public for local police mishandling of a rape case involving two sisters last week in Milyang, South Gyeongsang Province.

Police were criticized by news media for dismissing the alleged victims' request to be interviewed by female officers and for putting their safety at risk by making them face a lineup of students to name offenders. The two sisters were also reportedly forced to confront their alleged attackers.

"We apologize for adding pain to the victims and family by failing to have female officers conduct the interview and to prevent an investigator's use of violent words, and for causing public concerns," the NPA said in a statement.

Last week, Ulsan police rounded up 40 high-school students, and arrested a dozen of them on sexual assault charges.

In one alleged incident in Milyang, an 18-year-old student lured a junior high school student whom he met on the Internet to a nearby motel, and gang raped her with a dozen friends.

The offenders allegedly threatened to post the sex scenes on the Internet if she talked about it.

But the incident spread after news reports that an investigator violated human rights of one alleged victim during the investigation of the rape case.

One police officer reportedly accused the women of defaming his hometown of Milyang by raising the case.

"Some deficiencies surfaced during the investigation process and I deeply apologize for causing concern to the people," Han Jung-gab, head of the Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency, said in a statement released Monday.

The officer who insulted the women will be punished, he said.

The Ulsan police also replaced the investigating team dealing with the rape case with new personnel, including a female officer.

In an editorial Monday, the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said police "made the sexual assault victims cry twice" during the investigation.

The mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo demanded that police restart the investigations.

The NPA said it would hold a meeting Thursday of senior police officials, lawmakers and heads of associations fighting against rape and sexual violence to collect opinions about how to protect human rights of victims of sexual violence.


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