November 20, 2015 13:01
Over 10,000 reports of child abuse were received last year for the first time as public awareness of the problem rises.
The 10,027 reported cases last year marked a 3.7 fold increase from 2001 and a 47.5 percent rise from a year earlier.
Reports of repeat abuse more than doubled from 494 in 2008 to 1,027 last year. Some 81.8 percent of abusers were the child's parents.
The surge is due to growing public awareness and strengthened regulations.
In September last year, a special law was passed toughening punishment for child abuse, and while that led to more cases being reported, experts say it has done little to curb child abuse.
"Children who were abused tend to abuse their own children when they grow up," said Ki Seon-wan, a psychiatrist at International St. Mary's Hospital. "We need to protect abused children and educate parents who abuse their kids as well."
Child abuse is categorized into physical, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect. Last year, 48 percent of reported cases involved more than one of those categories.
Abusive language, neglect and denying children food can be just as harmful as physical or sexual abuse. Hong Chang-pyo of the National Child Protection Agency said, "Parents may fool themselves by thinking that they’re just disciplining their children, but verbal abuse and punishments often get worse over time."
The shortage of childcare facilities is also a bar to prevention. Last year, just 364 monitors at childcare facilities in 54 areas checked up on 61,242 reported cases of child abuse, which boils down to 168 cases being handled annually by each person.
Children who are victims of severe abuse are separated from parents and placed in one of 37 shelters across the country, but the total housing capacity of such facilities is only 250 children.
Also needed is a program to keep watch on abusive parents because the victims themselves rarely report abuse.
Experts call for greater vigilance and greater awareness of the many forms child abuse can take. Reports can be made by calling 112.
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