A Child Psychiatrist’s View on the Cases of Child
Abuse Reported in the Media in South Korea
Seung Min Bae*
Department of Psychiatry, Gachon university Gil Medical Center, South Korea
Submission: February 17, 2017; Published: April 03, 2017
*Corresponding author: Seung Min Bae, Department of Psychiatry, Gachon university Gil Medical Center, South Korea.
How to cite this article: Seung M B. A Child Psychiatrist’s View on the Cases of Child Abuse Reported in the Media in South Korea. Acad J Ped Neonatol.
2017; 4(2): 555692. DOI: 10.19080/AJPN.2017.04.555692
Child abuse is a serious event that can affect not only the victimized child but also the family, the community, and even the whole society. Relatively lack of practices in this field, compared to other medical expertise, contributes to the situation in South Korea. Recent series of child abuse events has become a nationwide issue, and I would like to share the experiences I had as a clinician and adviser in these cases with colleagues around the world.
In other OECD countries, the roles of pediatric experts in preventing and responding to child abuse have been well defined, and a wide range of educations and seminars are being actively organized [1-5]. Nevertheless, since the tragic event, clinicians’ awareness, and the participation of social role in child abuse are coming to fore now in South Korea. The purpose of this paper is to organize the activities of child psychiatrists in child abuse crimes to help establish academic and practical applications in the future.
Child abuse is a serious social crime not only restricted to an individual and family, but also to a community and furthermore historical problem having intergenerational transfer of violence and unhappiness [1-5]. Therefore, treating and stopping the tragedy of such violence and participation of related experts who can acts accurately as a professional and preventive role is significant at this point [1,3,4]. Additionally, child abuse is a personal and social pathological phenomenon; a problem involved with physical and psychological abnormalities, and is generally associated with family dysfunction . Due to a complex dynamic involvement of personal, psychosocial and environmental factors, detect and diagnose of child abuse is highly difficult [3,4]. However, paradoxically, the early detection and diagnosis is essential due to the failure of early detection ultimately leads to increase of prevalence and mortality rate in chronic abuses and other diseases [3,4]. If these abuses remain unexposed or expose but no proper response is followed, one third of victims will continue
to re victimized and eventually 5-10% of them will lead to death . Moreover child abuse is generally not a single form as already known as well, and clinically classified in to four types. Neglect is the most frequent type of child abuse which consist 80 % of child abuse, followed by physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse [3,4,6].
According to the study, the first reason for medical staff miss detecting child abuse, is due to lack of education during medical training on child abuse and assessment, secondly, hesitation of declaration, and finally, fear of losing the patient (guardian fleeing by not bringing patient to the medical facility or taking them to another physician who would not notice). For this reason, only 10 percent of physicians report adequate abuse even if they have identified child abuse . Thus, it is the academic circle’s recommendation that, at least up to school age, children should be assessed under a health-related system in a regular and structured form . At this point, the author suggests that the utilization of the infant health screening system(provided by the National Health Insurance Corporation to the children under 6 years old, a total of 7 times (4-6 months, 9-12 months, 18-24 months, 30-36 months, 42-48 months, 54-60 months, 66- 71 months), the stage-specific health screening program since 2007)  in South Korea should be strengthened in this regard, and that it should be accompanied by comprehensive and accurate education and guidance of physician practicing child abuse.
As many experts in the field have emphasized, majority of
child abuse is caused by a biological parent or primary caregiver,
who is not a stranger [1,3,7]. In such a case, even if the child
completes the report through a difficult process, large number
of family members force child to perjury to defend and protect
the perpetrator, and scorn and frighten child in a situation
where physician and jurisdictional authority have no control .
Ultimately, professionals who are dealing with child abuse should
be seriously aware of the possibility that not only the perpetrator
but also the surrounding families could be potentially threat
to the child [1,2,4]. In addition, it is extremely urgent to build a
system that can protect the victim from these potential threats. In
many cases, issues between family members are assumed not as a
crime but as a blatant blow, and it is often difficult for professional
intervention to take a place. This is more prominent culture in
Asia, including Korea . It also should be considered that the
separation of perpetrator leads to another state where proper
guardian is absent and child is neglected. Many children may not
be able to report violence because of the perpetrators ‘ threat, but
also to a fear of being neglected from possibility of families tearing
apart followed by the report [4,9].
Therefore, concern of making an environment that can protect
the child temporarily or in a long term depending on the situation
should be held by the whole society. Despite these problems,
tragically, under low and limited circumstances child could
be isolated from the perpetrator followed by the abuse report
. In many cases of child abuse, even after reporting, the fast
involvement of the judiciary is often missed due to the limitations
of various resources, and even when intervening, perpetrator is
often let off with simple warning and proper post-processing is
not applied[4,6]. In this case, the perpetrators can become more
threatful to a child with dangerous idea of, “Even if I am reported,
it is just for the moment and can be overcome easily.” or “I should
not give a child a chance to report me “[4,9]. Therefore, not only
law-enforcement authorities but also experts in child abuse
should evaluate the likelihood of reoffenders . Considering the
complexity and various difficulties of child abuse cases, the recent
national interested incidents such as the barefoot mass exodus
of abused children , child abusing at a day care facilities 
has been dealt relatively systematically and professionally. The
biggest reason for such comparatively positive progress is due
to the spotlight of mass media along with the visual stimulus of
the two events, such as CCTVs, and attraction of massive public’s
However, looking at the child abuse cases at other daycare
center at the same period, the victim’s family were blamed by
other guardians and caregivers due to the specificity of a daycare
center, (because of an idea that other guardians thinking the cause
abuse came from victimized child not a childcare teacher’s since
other children were not abused, the victim’s family exaggerated
a case, or due to the inconveniences that other children became
unable to use the daycare center) and were not only unable to
take appropriate legislative process but also child’s safety and
their psychological protection were put at stake .
These recent incidents showed a tragic reality that perception
of child abuse differentiates greatly even between parents of same
positioning, and these perceptions differentiate even greater
between experts and non-experts. Experiencing these cases as
clinicians and legal advisors, the importance of sharing these
experiences with other specialists, and to communicate with
experts from other areas within the relevant agencies involving
child issues, were perceived. Child sexual abuse and pedophilia
have become known to the public relatively recently and the
sexual education in the regular education program has started to
be achieved . As well as to the expert group associated with
the child, the intensive publicity and education of child abuse
toward public is necessarily needed is the conclusion of the author
who has recently addressed domestic child abuse cases.
As mentioned earlier, child abuse is a tragic case confined not
just to some children, but it is a widespread social crime that also
affects family, surrounding community, and even the immediate
and the future generation. Therefore, even if it is difficult and
limited to develop a healthy, society the severity and desperation
of child abuse should not be overlooked, and to prevent, early
detect and realize proper social justice, expert and the whole
society should put interest. Under this direction, the author would
like to conclude some suggestions outlined in the text.
a. Enhancement in public publicity, lecture and education
for the public.
b. Practical use of infant health screening system.
c. Multidisciplinary cooperation through medical-judicialrelated
d. Development of practical capacity and improvement of
necessary legal system so that existing legislation on child
abuse law becomes realized.
e. Increase in number of specialists and police force and
continuous development of capability in the child abuse area.