Toughen sentencing guidelines for digital sex crimes quickly
The Seoul High Court rejected an extradition request from the United States, Monday, for Son Jong-woo, the convicted operator of the world's largest child porn site. Son, 24, was released after the decision that generated intense public outrage. He had served his entire 18-month sentence as of April but remained in custody pending a decision on the extradition request.
The court said it had rejected the extradition request because sending him to the U.S. could “hamper” the country's investigations into the users of the site, Welcome to Video. “If Son is extradited, investigations here could hit a snag,” the court said. Considering that out of 346 members of the porn site arrested around the world, Koreans numbered 223, the judge may have had a point.
A U.S. federal grand jury indicted Son in 2018 on nine charges, including producing and distributing child pornography. His 18-month sentence contrasted with several 15-year sentences handed out to people convicted in the U.S. in this case.
In May, Son's father sued his son, accusing him of concealing the proceeds from his crimes, a charge he had not faced in his trial here. The move was widely seen as an attempt to open a new legal case against Son in Korea and prevent him from being sent to the U.S. This reflects the shameful behavior of Korea's prosecution and courts that have dealt with sexual offenses leniently.
Monday's ruling reignited debate over the slap-on-the-wrist punishment of our judicial system against child pornography. Many people let out their pent-up anger over the court's decision, arguing that Son should have been extradited to the U.S. as it would be impossible to punish him severely here.
The judiciary has been tepid in amending sentencing guidelines. What is needed first therefore is to speed up the pace of toughening sentencing guidelines for digital sex crimes, considering that these are grave offenses that destroy the victim's character.