Police to Reinvestigate Sex-Abuse Claim at Deaf School

Police are reinvestigating allegations of sexual abuse at a school for hearing-impaired children in Gwangju after the subject was made into a film called "The Crucible" that has stirred up rage among viewers across the country.

The National Police Agency on Wednesday said a 15-member special investigation unit has been assigned to probe the allegations, in order to protect the human rights and safety of the remaining students at Gwangju Inhwa School.

The team consists of five detectives from the agency's special crime investigation unit and 10 officers from local police in Gwangju. It includes three female officers.

They will investigate whether there were more incidents of sexual abuse of children at the school and whether officials at Gwangju city hall, the district and educational offices and other government agencies were bribed or pressured to overlook the allegations. Police will also probe whether proper supervisory measures were taken, as well as corruption and other allegations at Gwangju Inhwa School.

Investigators plan to look into rumors that students also assaulted each other at the school.

"There was strong public sentiment seeking a reinvestigation into the Inhwa School incident, so we have decided to look into all of the suspicions again," a police spokesman said. "We can't reinvestigate the charges that were listed on the original indictment due to double jeopardy rules, but we will be probing additional cases of sexual assault, bribes and other crimes and those found guilty of fresh crimes can be investigated again even if they have already been punished for other crimes."

The statute of limitations on sex crimes is 10 years. Many of the crimes at the Gwangju Inhwa School were committed around 2001, so police believe they can still investigate them.

The Gwangju High Court, which handled the second phase of the trial in 2008, issued a statement saying the actual sentences meted out to perpetrators were different than depicted in the movie, which sought to maximize its appeal to audiences.

englishnews@chosun.com / Sep. 29, 2011 13:57 KST