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  • 작성자 사진Han Seo-hyeon

[Issue] Sorry Jeong-in: A Fatal Child Abuse Incident in Korea

최종 수정일: 2021년 4월 19일

No. 150 / Mar 8, 2021

Jeong-in, who was adopted in January 2020, died on October 13, after 16 months of continuous abuse. The child died of excessive bleeding in the abdominal cavity as the pancreas, the most posterior organ, was cut due to strong external pressure on the abdomen. The blood loss was approximately 600 mL, which was 90% of Jeong-in’s blood volume. Damage such as intestinal membrane bleeding, rupture of the small intestine and colon, and a cut pancreas all occurred because of rapid and powerful external shocks resembling crushing or a traffic accident. In addition, the child had seven rib fractures and bruises all over her body. The incident became known to the world following coverage by the SBS program Want to Know That.

Jang, her foster mother, denied allegations of intentional abuse, claiming that “I accidentally dropped my child and bumped into a chair.” However, according to a study by the American Society of Law Pathologists on a 32-month-old child abuse victim who died of pancreatic amputation, falling is the most common excuse a guardian uses to hide how the child’s abdomen was damaged, and pancreatic amputation is crucial evidence of abuse.

There were three chances to save Jeong-in. On May 25, teachers at a daycare center first reported the abuse, and on June 29, an acquaintance of the foster mother also reported the abuse. On September 23, a pediatrician reported a third episode of abuse. The circumstances of child abuse were reported three times, but Yangcheon Police Station did not conduct a proper investigation as the person in charge changed every time. Thus, they closed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence and sent it to the prosecution with a no prosecution opinion. In the case of child protection institutions, they conducted 80 home inspections after the first abuse report, but many of them did not directly see Jeong-in or consult with her adoptive parents face to face. They made phone calls but gave up when they did not connect. People were furious about the fatal abuse by the foster parents, the police’s poor response, and the child protection institutions’ negligence. They launched a memorial using the hashtag “sorryjeongin” via social media. More than 300,000 people signed a petition calling for the dismissal of the head of Yangcheon Police Station and the police officer in charge of child abuse on the National Petition Bulletin of Cheong Wa Dae.

Therefore, on January 6, Kim Chang-ryong, the chief of the National Police Agency, officially apologized for the initial response and lack of investigation and was put on standby. The National Assembly Judiciary Committee reviewed more than 40 child abuse prevention bills submitted after the opening of the 21st National Assembly and pledged to create a new general department for child abuse and increase the number of public officials in charge. In addition, the city and provincial police office said they will establish a dedicated investigation team to directly investigate child abuse cases under the age of 13 to strengthen the response system and establish a solid cooperative system with related agencies.

Despite all these appearances, the foster mother’s lawyers still denied that murder and child abuse occurred. During the COVID-19 pandemic, one report conducted by Save the Children revealed that the percentage of domestic violence experiences more than doubled from 8% before the school closures to 17%. It is still impossible for children to go to school normally; the government has to strengthen the punishments for child abuse to prevent such things as the Jeong-in incident, the Changnyeong nine-year-old child abuse case, and Cheonan stepmother child abuse death. It is necessary to create a completely different world for the victims of abuse who are still suffering.


By Han Seo-hyeon, AG Reporter

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