Light Sentences in Child Abuse Cases Trigger Public Outrage

The stepmother and biological father implicated in a child abuse case appear in court for their trials. 

Public outcry turned rampant Friday in South Korea when the court handed out relatively light sentences to parents convicted of beating their stepchildren to death, in two separate cases, according to the Korea Times.

A 35-year-old woman, only identified by her last name Lim, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after she fatally beat her 8-year-old stepdaughter in Daegu. Her daughter died two days later in the hospital.


In Ulsan, a 41-year-old stepmother received a 15-year jail term for beating her daughter and breaking multiple ribs, one of which  pierced her lung and led to her death.


Prosecutors initially requested a minimum of 20 years in prison for Lim, while some protesters at the Daegu District Court even called for the death penalty. The deceased girl’s 12-year-old sister, who accused Lim of also beating her, asked the judge to hand out the death penalty in a handwritten letter.

Lim was convicted of beating her younger stepdaughter regularly until her death last October. When the girl died, she allegedly forced her older stepdaughter, identified by her last name Kim, to tell the police that Kim had kicked her younger sister and killed her.

The biological father of the two sisters, who is accused of also abusing his children, received a three-year sentence for negligence and other violations of the Children’s Welfare Law, the Korean newspaper reported.

The stepmother in the Ulsan case was convicted of killing her 8-year-old stepdaughter, also in October, by punching and kicking her repeatedly, apparently as punishment because the girl had asked to go on a picnic with her friends. An autopsy later showed that the young girl had 16 broken ribs, one of which pierced her lung.

The Korean Women Lawyers’ Association expressed its disappointment at the light punishment of the two women and demanded the prosecutors to appeal the court’s decision in both cases.

However, the court in Daegu ruled that there was no substantial evidence to prove that the stepmother intended to murder her stepchild.

Authorities and politicians alike have joined the general public to voice their concerns about South Korea’s recent track record of child abuse cases. According to Huffington Post Korea, 97 children died in South Korea over the last 12 years due to maltreatment.

“It’s deplorable that the nation has seen two brutal child abuse cases recently,” Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said. “These incidents prompted me to think that policies dealing with child abuse might have some loopholes.”

Chief policymaker Yoo Il-ho of South Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party said: “We are embarrassed at seeing such brutal cases as our party took the initiative in passing the bill banning child abuse and calling for harsh punishment for those responsible for abusing children.”