The Korean National Police Agency said it will strictly enforce violations of both laws -- on protecting juveniles from sexual abuse and preventing suicide. The amendments take effect Tuesday.
Under the revised law on sexual abuse, adults who have sexual intercourse with teenagers aged between 13 and 16 by taking advantage of their “poor” circumstances can be sentenced to at least three years in jail, regardless of whether there was consent.
“Poor” circumstances could refer to mental, physical or financial difficulties -- for example, teenagers who run away from troubled homes would be protected under the revised law.
There have been cases in which offenders provided accommodation and pocket money to teenage runaways in return for sex. The offenders avoided punishment by arguing the minors had given their consent, which was a valid legal defense.
Previously, adults who sexually exploited teenagers between 13 and 16 could only face punishment if rape or other forcible sex acts could be proven. “Unlawful sexual intercourse under consent” was only punishable by law when the victims were under 13.
With the changes in place, the police plan to carry out a campaign to prevent this category of sexual offenses and sternly deal with them. People who report the offenses can receive rewards of up to 1 million won ($850), they said.
Starting Tuesday, the police will also carry out an intensive crackdown on online activities that incite suicide.
Under the revision, anyone who recruits people for group suicides and shares information for that purpose can face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 20 million won. Sharing photos or videos online about specific ways to end one’s life can also incur similar penalties.