South Korea’s Dubious Comfort Women Ruling – The Diplomat

A South Korean court made headlines in early January, when it ruled in a claim filed by former “comfort women” that Japan did not have state immunity in the case, and awarded damages to the plaintiffs. The comfort women worked in privately owned brothels servicing the Japanese military during World War II. Japan, invoking state immunity under international law, elected not to appeal the decision, and it was finalized on January 23.

In 1993, the Korean congress enacted a special law stipulating that the Korean comfort women were the victims of forced recruitment by the Japanese government, a charge that Japan denied. Since 1993, the Korean government has officially identified 240 former comfort women. Proponents of pro-North Korea national socialism in South Korea used the issue of comfort women as anti-Japan propaganda.

However, the records of 37 comfort women published on the official website of the Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and Family are revealing. Eleven women stated that they were forcibly recruited by Korean soldiers, policemen, or local officials; 20 testified that they were deceived or abducted by human traffickers; two said that they voluntarily went to pimps and brothels for money. Several Korean researchers found that some victims had originally testified that their families had sold them to traffickers or pimps, and that comfort women were the victims of deceptive recruitment and coercion by Korean traffickers or pimps rather than the Japanese government. For sharing their findings, the researchers were prosecuted for slander, and in 2017, one of them was fined.

Japan’s position is that the individual claims of comfort women victims were settled with the 1965 Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and the 2015 Governmental Agreement on the Final and Irreversible Settlement of Problems Concerning Comfort Women Victims. In addition, Japan argues that South Korea failed to fulfill its obligation to grant state immunity.

State immunity is a principle in international law that holds that the exercise of governmental authority is immune from civil prosecution in another country’s courts. As the South Korean special law of 1993 stipulates that comfort women were forcibly recruited by the Japanese government, the legal character of its act was tantamount to the exercise of governmental authority. As such, it must be exempt from civil prosecution in South Korean courts.

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The January ruling found that Japan did not have state immunity on the grounds that Japan’s forced recruitment amounts to a war crime or crime against humanity, violating peremptory norms (jus cogens). However, at the level of international law, state immunity is an issue that is entirely distinct from international crimes and/or peremptory norms. Peremptory norms, as stipulated in the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, apply to the validity of treaties, an issue far removed from state immunity. Peremptory norms do not override state immunity.

After World War II, for example, the Allies established international tribunals to deal with war crimes and crimes against humanity. International crimes have nothing to do with state immunity. The postwar reparations issues including individual claims were resolved in lump-sum settlement treaties, irrespective of state immunity. In 2012, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that a 2004 ruling by the Italian Supreme Court – which found that German state immunity did not apply in a case involving Italian forced laborers during World War II on the grounds that the forced labor breached peremptory norms – was in violation of international law. Following the ICJ ruling, the Italian parliament enacted a law suspending the Italian court’s decision in 2013. In 2014, the Italian Constitutional Court ruled this law unconstitutional, but this does not justify the violation of international law.

In 2002, the Greek Special Supreme Court affirmed Germany’s state immunity in a reparations case involving German war crimes in World War II, stating that the principle of state immunity is separate from questions involving peremptory norms and international crimes. In similar cases, the Polish courts and French courts have also granted state immunity to Germany. Those decisions correctly reflected international law.

Because the international community recognized the 1910 Korea-Japan Annexation Treaty, the Allies during World War II did not recognize Korea as a sovereign nation. Consequently, from 1910 to 1945, international law did not apply to the relationship between Korea and Japan. Korea and Japan established diplomatic relations with the Basic Relations Treaty in 1965, and they also entered into the Claims Agreement. The two countries agreed to “fully and finally” resolve all kinds of individual claims other than those covered by an exception clause in the Claims Agreement. Under this agreement, the Korean government received 300 million dollars from Japan to compensate alleged Korean victims. The individual claims of the comfort women do not meet the stipulations of the exception clause of the Claims Agreement, so these claims are considered resolved by the Claims Agreement. In other words, even if it is assumed there was forced recruitment, the Korean government is obliged to compensate the former comfort women. In fact, the Korean government has already compensated the 240 officially recognized comfort women victims.

Japan did not specify the 300 million dollars given to Korea as tort damages, so some argue that it is still possible to demand reparations from Japan regardless of the Claims Agreement. However, the 1965 Claims Agreement was agreed upon to “fully and finally” resolve all claims regardless of the legal characteristic of the 300 million dollars. The question of whether or not the 300 million dollars were tort damages was not an issue when the Claims Agreement was concluded. This is why the relationship between Korea and Japan is “future-oriented.” In 1996, the Korean Constitutional Court ruled that individual claims cannot be pursued against Japan because the Claims Agreement is a lump-sum settlement treaty.

In the case mentioned earlier, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that state immunity did not apply partly because Germany had not compensated the plaintiffs, who had been deprived of their prisoner of war status and forced to perform labor as civilians. In contrast, Japan established the Asian Women Foundation in 1995 to apologize and provide ex gratia compensation to comfort women. Tokyo also reached an agreement with the South Korean government in 2015 on a final resolution of the comfort women issue.

Under that 2015 agreement, the Japanese government provided 1 billion yen to the Korean Reconciliation and Healing Foundation (KRHF), established in South Korea in 2016 to provide compensation to the comfort women, with apologies again. When the KRHF began to provide the compensation, a private organization named the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (KCJR) persuaded some victims to refuse it. It is reported that more than 30 out of 47 surviving comfort women victims received the compensation. Then, in 2017, a new president was elected in South Korea. The new Moon Jae-in government rejected the Park Geun-hye government’s 2015 agreement and dismantled the KRHF in 2019 without Japan’s consent. Yet that 2015 agreement remains in effect.

In 2020, a comfort women victim’s complaint that a female leader of the KCJR had improperly used donations from ordinary people and government subsidies received widespread media coverage. Though the KCJR leader was elected as a member of the Korean congress, she could not avoid a criminal indictment for fraud and embezzlement.

In its ruling last month, the South Korean court failed to respect international law by wrongfully exercising its jurisdiction. Consequently, South Korea is again igniting conflict with Japan. Certainly, the Korean government is required to take domestic measures complying with the 2015 agreement as well as international law. But this has become politically difficult because activists and politicians have led many Korean people to firmly believe that Japan must compensate the victims. To end the vicious circle of conflict with Japan, the only option for the South Korean government is to agree with Japan to resolve it before an international tribunal in accordance with international law.

Jinyul Ju is a professor at Pusan National University Law School in Korea.

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J.Y. Lee, Chief of South Korea’s Samsung Business Empire, Is Sent to Prison

SEOUL, South Korea — ​The Seoul High Court ​sentenced Samsung’s top leader, Lee Jae-yong, to ​two and a half years in prison on Monday for bribing South Korea’s former president, Park Geun-hye​.

Mr. Lee’s case must go to the Supreme Court before it is formally closed. In South Korea, the Supreme Court can either endorse a lower court’s ruling on a case or send it back for a retrial. It cannot overrule a lower court’s sentence.

When Mr. Lee’s case first reached the Supreme Court in 2019, the court returned it to the Seoul High Court for retrial, saying that it had underestimated the amount of bribes Mr. Lee paid to Ms. Park and her secretive confidante, Choi Soon-sil, while Ms. Park was in power. It said the amount should be 8.6 billion won ($7.8 million), not 3.6 billion, as the lower court had found.

In its ruling on Monday, the Seoul High Court accepted 8.6 billion won as the correct amount, as instructed by the Supreme Court. Its decision to do so meant that it was all but a done deal that the Supreme Court would endorse the ruling.

Mr. Lee already spent one year in jail after being arrested by prosecutors in 2017 in connection to the bribery case. He is now expected to only spend one and a half years in prison with time served, taking him away from the day-to-day management of one of the world’s most valuable tech giants.

​After the court issued its sentence on Monday, Mr. Lee was immediately arrested in the courtroom so he could start serving his time.

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South Korea’s IPO market poised for record year on booming retail demand

January 8, 2021

By Heekyong Yang and Scott Murdoch

SEOUL/HONG KONG (Reuters) – South Korea is set for the busiest year ever for new share sales as companies ranging from a digital bank, game developer to an electric car battery maker rush to take advantage of robust retail demand, bankers and analysts said.

Its IPO market could raise up to 20 trillion won ($18.40 billion), a record and about four times above 2020 levels, led by firms providing products that are more in demand from people stuck indoors due to the pandemic, analysts said.

Also, a move by the country’s financial regulator to increase the allocation of IPO shares to retail customers this year will drive up investment, they added.

The projection comes against a recent rally in the main KOSPI index to above 3,000 for the first time, with investors looking towards a broad recovery in exports beyond South Korea’s tech titans.

This is “shaping up to look like it could be a record year”, said David Chung, head of Korea investment banking at Goldman Sachs. “The majority of big mandates and IPO themes are around the technology sector.”

That includes companies that were offline but now, amid the health crisis, have built up a significant online presence, Chung added. “That is where the growth is.”

Deals in the pipeline include a potential 4.6 trillion won float from KakaoBank, which has benefited from an inflow of customers from South Korea’s dominant chat app operator Kakao Corp. Kakao has a 32% stake in KakaoBank.

KakaoBank has picked advisers but not decided when it will list, a spokesman said.

An estimated 9-trillion won share sale by Tesla supplier LG Chem’s electric car battery unit is also in the pipeline, according to an analyst.

The IPO size or timing has not been decided yet, an LG Energy Solution official said.

South Korean companies raised about 4.7 trillion won via initial public offerings in 2020, Korea Exchange data shows, surpassing the past two years, but behind an all-time high of about 10 trillion won reached in 2010.


EV battery maker SK Innovation’s chemical material unit SK IE Technology (SKIET) is also expected to make its market debut this year, bankers and analysts said.

SKIET said it plans to complete the IPO process within 2021.

Consumer demand for EVs has been relatively resilient, aided by tighter environment regulations and the launch of new models.

In South Korea, a “New Deal” economic initiative that pivots on digital innovation and eco-friendly growth is burnishing the appeal of EV-related stocks.

Gaming company Krafton and SK Bioscience are also looking to raise about 5 trillion won and 600 billion won, respectively, this year, Seoul-based SK Securities said.

In October, Krafton picked advisers for its IPO with plans to go public in 2021. A company spokeswoman said on Friday there were no further details to share at the moment.

SK Bioscience was not immediately available for comment.

Individual investors, who piled into the South Korean market last year, are trading at a pace not seen in years.

In 2020, the KOSPI clocked its biggest rise since 2009 as shares in companies like Samsung Electronics, the world’s biggest maker of memory chips, surged.

“The market right now is clearly attractive to retail investors and it will likely attract more of them as IPO shares allocation for retail investors has gone up to as much as 30% from 20%,” said Lee So-joong, an analyst with SK Securities.

($1 = 1,086.7300 won)

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang in Seoul, Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong; Additional reporting by Jihoon Lee, Joyce Lee; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Himani Sarkar)

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Banyan – Is North Korea’s dictator losing his touch? | Asia

WHEN KIM JONG UN, North Korea’s third-generation despot, penned a short, bland greeting to his people to run as a splash in the year’s first edition of the state mouthpiece, Rodong Sinmun, it triggered an avalanche of speculation among Pyongyangologists—over what Mr Kim did not do. Since the founding of the communist state, a near-annual staple has been a prolix new year’s address by the country’s leader, trumpeting the regime’s accomplishments and the glories to come. Like Chinese emperors conducting Confucian rites, the address confirmed the Kims at the summit of a divinely ordained order. Unlike his father and grandfather before him, Mr Kim, in power since 2011, has typically delivered the speech in person. Yet last year he simply published a long screed, and this year there was no paean at all.

Perhaps Mr Kim was keeping his powder dry for an important congress of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, only the second since 1980? That opaque conclave duly opened on January 5th—without any ritual address from the leader. In its place was a bald admission of failure. The goals of his country’s five-year economic plan, launched in 2016 and promising sunlit uplands, were, Mr Kim admitted, “immensely underachieved in almost all sectors”.

Although the Kim dynasty is founded upon myth and mendacity, he could not have easily dissembled. Last year’s economic outcomes in an already broken country were dire. Trade collapsed by an estimated 80% (just $1.6m of goods officially crossed the border with China in October). The informal markets and private enterprise upon which millions of North Koreans now depend have struggled to fill the gap. Shortages are growing, with the prices of vegetables and fruit rising sharply. Even upscale supermarkets in Pyongyang, the pampered capital, have run out of sugar, cooking oil and toothpaste, according to NK News, a website based in Seoul.

Closing the borders in early 2020 in response to the covid-19 pandemic came on top of North Korea’s diplomatic isolation. For both acts of self-harm, the blame lies squarely with Mr Kim. He calculated that provocative missile and nuclear tests would force America to negotiate. For a time this strategy seemed as if it might work on President Donald Trump, who expressed admiration for the North Korean ruler. But Mr Kim overplayed his hand. Talks failed, and sanctions were only tightened. Perhaps Mr Kim hoped that a second term for Mr Trump could get the personal chemistry fizzing again. Instead, he faces a level-headed Joe Biden.

As for the coronavirus, Mr Kim saw it as a threat to his regime and shut the crucial border with China—border guards even shot at storks suspected of carrying the virus. The country’s decrepit health system could surely not handle a pandemic. Meanwhile, as Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein points out on the Australian National University’s East Asia Forum, admitting foreign epidemiologists would have opened the country to the risk of foreign spies and unsavoury ideological influences. But this extreme response comes at an immense human cost. The economy, says Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in Seoul, seems to be “beginning to fall apart”. Hunger once again stalks the land.

If he cared about his people, Mr Kim would welcome foreign vaccines, even if outsiders helped distribute and administer them. The party congress would also initiate the kind of market reforms that set communist China and Vietnam on the path of growth (and which North Korea briefly appeared tempted to embark on early in Mr Kim’s rule). Far more likely, the congress will herald a new era of state control over private enterprise, harming livelihoods even more.

Mr Lankov reckons the regime faces its greatest test since a famine more than 20 years ago brought on by the incompetence of Mr Kim’s late father and grandfather. The regime survived that test despite the deaths of more than 500,000 North Koreans. Today, though, the people know much more about the outside world. They have grown less deferential to authority. And they are used to coping without the state: they might react angrily to the reimposition of central control.

That is not to say that the Kim dynasty is on the brink of collapse. But even small disturbances may be seen, both at home and abroad, as a sign of unravelling. The regime’s rituals project Mr Kim—morbidly obese, smoking heavily and cosseted in his palaces—as the irreproachable bearer of a heavenly mandate. It is a message he may soon need to reinforce.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Cosmic wobbles”

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Kim Jong-un Vows to Boost North Korea’s Nuclear Capability as Leverage With Biden

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, vowed to advance his country’s nuclear capabilities, declaring that it will build land- and submarine-launched solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as making its nuclear missiles smaller, lighter and more precise, the North’s state media reported on Saturday.

Mr. Kim’s declaration comes as President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. prepares to take office, succeeding President Trump. Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump met three times, but their meetings failed to produce a breakthrough​ in either ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program or lifting devastating sanctions the United Nations has imposed on the country for its weapons activities.

But despite his pledge to advance his country’s arsenal, Mr. Kim, speaking to the congress of his ruling Workers’ Party, said he did “not rule out diplomacy.” He said his effort to strengthen his country’s weapons capability was designed to gain leverage in dealing with Washington and its allies in order to “drive diplomacy in the right direction and guarantee its success” in achieving “peace” on the Korean Peninsula.

He said he would adjust his policy according to that of the incoming Biden administration, “responding to force with force, and to good will with good will.”

“Our external political activities must focus on controlling and subjugating the United States, our archenemy and the biggest stumbling block to the development of our revolution,” Mr. Kim said. “No matter who takes power in the United States, its true nature and its policy toward our country will never change.”

Mr. Kim’s comments, carried by the North’s Korean Central News Agency early Saturday, marked his first official reaction to the election of Mr. Biden to replace Mr. Trump.

Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump started their relationship with a blistering exchange of personal insults and threats, including Mr. Trump’s warning of “fire and fury.” Then they made a dramatic switch to diplomacy, meeting in Singapore in 2018 in the first-ever summit meeting between the two nations. Mr. Trump later said he “fell in love” with the North Korean dictator, who​ once called him a “mentally deranged U.S. ​dotard.”

During his report to the party congress, Mr. Kim laid out plans for making his nuclear weapons “small and light,” as well as continuing to build “super-large nuclear warheads,” the North Korean news agency said.

He also ordered his country to improve the precision of its intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as to develop long-range solid-fuel ballistic missiles to be launched from land and submarines. And he instructed his military to build a nuclear-powered submarine.

Solid-fuel and submarine-launched missiles are considered harder to detect for pre-emptive strikes, and North Korea has conducted numerous tests in recent years in an attempt to convert many of its shorter-range missiles from liquid to solid fuel.

It remains unclear how fast North Korea can achieve the ambitious weapons-development goals Mr. Kim has set.

When North Korea test-launched the Hwasong-15 in late 2017, it claimed the missile could reach any part of the continental United States carrying a nuclear warhead. Although North Korea flight-tested three intercontinental ballistic missiles​, all in 2017, it has yet to demonstrate whether it has the technology needed to protect a nuclear warhead during atmospheric re-entry and deliver the weapon to its target.

The party congress, the biggest political event in North Korea, ​was being closely watched by outside analysts for clues to how Mr. Kim may calibrate his policy toward Washington under the Biden administration.

Since his diplomacy with Mr. Trump collapsed, Mr. Kim has refrained from resuming nuclear or long-range missile tests. He appeared to wait out the November election in the United States, deciding not to provoke Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly touted his special “personal relationship” with the North Korean dictator.

But the display of a new​ and larger​ I.C.B.M. ​during a nighttime military parade in Pyongyang in October also was designed to demonstrate the North’s growing military threat and press whoever won the United States election to make concessions to North Korea, analysts said.

​Mr. Kim convened this week’s party congress amid mounting challenges at home.

When North Korea held its last party congress, in 2016, it was the first such gathering in 36 years and was Mr. Kim’s major coming-out event as leader. There, he adopted his ambitious five-year goals, promising to build a “great socialist country” by 2020 that would have both a nuclear arsenal and a growing economy.

Things have not transpired as Mr. Kim had hoped.

Since taking over his country following the 2011 death of his father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, Mr. Kim has accelerated his country’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

But the United Nations Security Council responded by imposing devastating sanctions, which caused its exports to plummet.

In his New Year’s message 12 months ago, Mr. Kim sounded defiant, saying his country would slog through the sanctions and build a “self-reliant” economy, even if that meant that his long-suffering people would have to “tighten our belts” again.

Soon afterward, however, North Korea was hit by the pandemic, which forced the country to close borders with China, its primary trading partner. Then came extensive flood damage.

When Mr. Kim opened the party congress on Tuesday, he conceded that his efforts to rebuild the country’s moribund economy had failed.

“Our five-year economic development plan has fallen greatly short of its goals in almost all sectors,” Mr. Kim said, as the country struggled with “a series of the worst of worst unprecedented crises.”

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As Birthrate Falls, South Korea’s Population Declines, Posing Threat to Economy

Think of major threats to South Korea, and its nuclear-armed neighbor North Korea may come to mind. But a subtler risk to South Korea’s future well-being lies within its borders: a shrinking and rapidly aging population.

The concern was underscored this weekend with the release of census data that showed South Korea’s population fell in 2020 for the first time on record. A declining number of newborns was exceeded by a growing number of deaths, according to census data reported Sunday by Yonhap, the South Korean news agency.

For years, population experts have warned that demographic trends in South Korea, like those in Japan, show declining growth — a bad signal for replenishing the labor force and caring for retirees and other older people as they become a larger share of society. The new data from South Korea, while not a surprise, were nonetheless concerning for a country that in recent decades has become one of Asia’s economic and cultural dynamos.

Yonhap said the census data from the Ministry of Interior and Safety showed that South Korea’s population totaled 51,829,023 as of Dec. 31, down 20,838 from the end of 2019. There were 275,815 births, down 10.65 percent from 2019, and 307,764 deaths, up 3.1 percent from 2019.

Yonhap quoted a ministry statement as expressing alarm about the implications, saying that “amid the rapidly declining birthrate, the government needs to undertake fundamental changes to its relevant policies.”

It was unclear to what extent the coronavirus pandemic may be exacerbating the population problem. The roughly 1,000 deaths in South Korea attributable to Covid-19 did not affect the basic outcome. But the Bank of Korea, in a regular economic appraisal reported last week, said the pandemic would exert a “a negative impact on the nation’s marriage and birthrate, leading to an acceleration of aging in the population.”

Successive South Korean governments have sought to counter the declining birthrate by offering financial incentives for couples to have more children.

The latest package of inducements was introduced just a few weeks ago by President Moon Jae-in, offering monthly allowances of 300,000 won, or about $274, for every newborn and infant up to the age of 1 starting in 2022. Expectant couples would get a 2 million won cash bonus starting next year, along with increased medical and other benefits.

While Mr. Moon’s package was an acknowledgment that prior inducements had failed, it was unclear whether increasing the financial rewards for bearing children would help.

Other trends in South Korea strongly discourage births. They include unaffordable housing and the rising opposition among women to child-rearing expectations by men in what remains a patriarchal society. More women in South Korea, rebelling against the country’s deeply embedded sexism, are foregoing marriage and motherhood in pursuit of education and professional careers.

“In short, our country is not a good place to live in, so passing down the burden to our children is not preferable,” The Korea Times said in an editorial last month about the inefficacy of what it called the government’s piecemeal attempts to reverse falling births.

South Korea’s fertility rate, a measurement of the average number of children per woman, is the world’s lowest. Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes South Korea, show its fertility rate has gradually fallen from 2.9 in 1979 to .9 in 2019. Forecasters expect it to fall further.

A fertility rate of 2.1 is regarded by demographers as the threshold required to replenish a country’s population.

Over time, falling birthrates can portend deep economic difficulties.

With fewer young workers, employers cannot fill vacancies. Retirees constitute a growing segment of the shrinking population, with fewer government resources to help them. The suicide rate among South Koreans aged 65 and older is one of the highest.

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Protests Erupt as South Korea’s Most Notorious Rapist Walks Free

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s most infamous rapist was released on Saturday after serving 12 years in prison, sparking angry demonstrations and anonymous death threats that led to an increased police presence outside the predator’s home.

Protesters gathered outside a prison in southern Seoul on Saturday, shouting “Send him to hell!” and “Castrate him!,” as the rapist Cho Doo-soon was released.

Mr. Cho was arrested in 2008 and later convicted for raping an 8-year-old girl, and his name has since become synonymous with the soft-glove treatment sex offenders are said to receive in the country’s courts.

When Mr. Cho, now 68, was released at dawn on Saturday, people were still enraged.

“What kind of country is this, protecting such a rapist?” protesters shouted as Mr. Cho was driven out in a gray government van under heavy police protection.

Some protesters lay on the pavement, holding signs and shouting slogans, in an attempt to prevent Mr. Cho from leaving. Police officers removed them and built barricades to allow the van carrying Mr. Cho to pass. Protesters kicked at the van and hurled eggs and insults at the vehicle. Anonymous death treats were issued against Mr. Cho online, forcing the authorities to add more police officers and surveillance cameras around his home.

Public anger has surged in recent months as the date of Mr. Cho’s release approached. Last Wednesday, the National Assembly passed a bill, nicknamed the “Cho Doo-soon law,” which banned people convicted of sexually assaulting minors from leaving their homes at night or during hours when students commute to and from school. The law also bans such sex offenders from going near schools.

South Korean courts have long been accused of leniency in meting out justice to white-collar criminals and sex offenders.

In April, a 24-year-old man named Son Jong-woo was released from prison after completing an 18-month sentence for running one of the world’s biggest child pornography websites. In July, a local court rejected the United States Justice Department’s request to have him extradited to face money-laundering and other charges in an American court.

Women’s rights advocates have said the justice system’s inability to properly punish sex offenders has allowed sexual abuse to proliferate nationwide.

But sex crimes here have also attracted more scrutiny in recent years, coupled with the country’s growing #MeToo movement, and the government has vowed tougher punishments. Last month, a 25-year-old man named Cho Joo-bin was sentenced to 40 years in prison for blackmailing young women, including eight minors, into making sexually explicit videos that he sold through encrypted online chat rooms.

Cho Doo-soon, who is not related to Cho Joo-bin, was drunk when he kidnapped a first-grader on her way to school and raped her in a church restroom in 2008. His drunkenness, age and “weak mental state” were cited as mitigating factors when the court sentenced him to 12 years in prison. The prosecutors, who in South Korea can push for stiffer punishments after sentencing in an appeal, chose not to.

Mr. Cho’s pending release from prison captured the attention of many South Koreans and the local news media for weeks. The Justice Ministry had not revealed from which prison Mr. Cho would be released on Saturday or at what time. But hundreds of protesters and journalists found out and gathered outside the Seoul prison from which he was released, the Justice Ministry facility in Ansan south of Seoul where Mr. Cho made a brief stop, and a house in Ansan where he planned to live with his wife.

Ansan residents have protested his return home, saying that they don’t feel safe with him in their neighborhood.

The police promised round-the-clock monitoring. Mr. Cho was seen wearing an electronic ankle monitor when he left prison on Saturday and was ordered to wear it for seven years. His whereabouts and photograph will be available on a government website for registered sex offenders.

The police also installed a monitoring system at his home and will make random visits there to check on him. They also have added 35 surveillance cameras, brighter streetlights and police booths in Mr. Cho’s neighborhood to monitor his movements and also deter people who have threatened to attack him. Police officers specially trained in martial arts will patrol his neighborhood.

Mr. Cho, wearing a cap and mask, did not respond to questions shouted by reporters on Saturday. But Ko Jeong-dae, a Justice Ministry official assigned to supervise Mr. Cho during his post-prison life, said Mr. Cho was surprised by the rage directed at him.

“While we were moving in the car, he told me he hadn’t expected this,” Mr. Ko told reporters in a briefing. “He said he had committed an unpardonable atrocity and he would live in repentance for the rest of his life.”

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Prosecution complex – South Korea’s president wants to take politics out of prosecutions | Asia

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Pleasing no one – South Korea’s government is making it easier to get an abortion | Asia

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