What happened to Kim Na-young? The Cho Doo-Soon case explained

What happened to Na-young?

On December 11th 2008, 8-year-old elementary school student Kim Na-young (pseudonym) from the small town of Ansan South Korea was on her way to school. Na-young was kidnapped, assaulted and raped by 56-year-old Cho Doo-soon, who claims to have been drunk at the time.

Doo-soon reportedly dragged Na-young to the secluded single-stall church bathroom which did not have any locks. Inside the bathroom, Cho struck Na-young in the face several times and bit her cheek, tearing the skin off her cheek. He then strangled and held her head underwater until she fainted before raping her.

After raping the 8-year-old girl, Doo-soon left Na-young on the bathroom floor and left the scene. It was reported that Na-young was found by her neighbours and taken to a hospital. Na-young survived the incident but had severe injuries to her internal organs.

Doo-soon inflicted permanent and traumatic cuts on Na-young’s abdomen and pelvis that required at least 8 months of treatment. She was left with permanent damage to her abdomen and would have to use a colostomy bag for the rest of her life. Later on, Na-young underwent a successful surgery to implement an artificial anus. Additionally, Na-young also suffered from depression and mental stress after the attack.

How was Na-young’s case mishandled?

Reports from the case state that Na-young was questioned by the prosecution right after she came out of surgery and was made to sit upright and answer the same questions four times, making her revisit the incident again and again. The prosecution also obtained Na-young’s testimony by taping a minor in public.

Na-young’s parents filed a lawsuit against the prosecution for subjecting their daughter to physical and psychological distress. The prosecution also failed to show the arrest videotape of Doo-soon which would have eliminated the need for her to take the witness stand.

In 2011, the government paid 13 million Korean Won to Na-young in compensation for the violations by the prosecution. 

What changes were made to the South Korean law to help Na-young?

Politician Kim Young-ho from the Democratic Party tried to introduce bills to try and prevent criminals from re-offending sex crimes against minors. The Ministry of Justice attempted to pass the Protective Supervision Act, which would put more extreme criminals into a facility away from society after their term in prison ends.

In 2014 and 2016 the ministry attempted to turn this bill into a law but received backlash for being a violation of human rights. Lawmaker Ko Young-in suggested a law that will restrict sex criminals from going farther than 200 meters from their homes. Laws to keep sex criminals like Doo-soon away from facilities with kids and to keep him from being able to drink alcohol have also been suggested in response to this case. 

In response to Doo-soon’s short prison sentence, 2 petitions for getting rid of the laws that weaken prison sentences for crimes committed while drunk and crimes committed by mentally impaired people have received 876,000 signatures. Both petitions were refused as they said they could not fill laws with passion.

Where is Na-young now?

After receiving psychiatric treatment for over a year following the incident, Na-young was able to recover physically only by 70%. In 2020, Na-young’s father reported that even as a 21-year-old, Na-young only watches cartoons and avoids watching the news completely to skip the chances of seeing something related to sexual assault.

After Doo-soon was released from prison in 2020, reports of him moving to Ansan, the city in which Na-young lived shocked the victim’s family. Na-young’s father also stated that Doo-soon had attempted to get in touch with Na-young which was adding to the stress among her family members.

Doo-soon had returned to Ansan to live with his wife less than 1 km away from Na-young’s house. Additional reports claim that Na-young’s father was willing to take out a loan to give money to Doo-soon, urging him to leave Ansan as the city was the only place where Na-young lived all her life. More reports allege that Na-young and her family have moved somewhere discreetly to avoid Doo-soon from reaching out to her.

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