gender equality ministry-policy plan

SEOUL, March 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will push to toughen criminal punishment for sex crimes against children and begin a government-led campaign to prevent sexual offenses this year, the gender equality ministry said Friday.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family reported its policy direction for 2013 to President Park Geun-hye on Friday.

During the policy briefing at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae, the ministry said it will seek to readjust the legal punishment being applied to sex crimes against children under the age 16, so such offenders could face jail time with no suspension of the execution.

By law, those who rape children under 13 can face 10 or more years in prison. There has been mounting criticism that the punishment is not enough when compared with the United States, where those who commit sex crimes against children under 16 can be sentenced to 30 or more years in prison, or Britain, where those sexually assaulting children under 13 face life imprisonment. About 64 percent of the people convicted of raping children during a period from 2000 to 2010 in South Korea had been sentenced to less than five years in jail, according to a government report.

The ministry said it will launch a nationwide campaign to prevent sex crimes, setting 2012 as the first year of the government-led drive.

For this, the government will release public ads on the subject on movie and television screens, and at various other places to provide information necessary to prevent sex offenses, the ministry said.

To prevent another social ill, social problems stemming from international marriages, the government will place an immigration officer supervising international marriages in the South Korean Embassy in Vietnam, the largest market for domestic brokering agencies of international marriage.

International marriages have been on the rapid rise since 2003. But domestic violence and divorce among multicultural couples have also increased as marriages are decided too quickly in many cases and in some cases without full personal information on each side.

"We will put our policy priorities to prevent violence against women, children and youth, expand economic activities for women and help people make healthier families," Cho Yoon-sun, the gender equality minister, told reporters after giving a briefing on the policy plan to the president.

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