The death of the 16-month-old girl, identified only by her given name, Jeong-in, has sparked public outrage and debate in the country about the need for tougher laws against child abusers. South Koreans also have been paying tribute to the girl at a public memorial with toys, letters and cards, local network MBC reported on Tuesday.
Jeong-in was adopted by a couple seeking a companion for their 4-year-old biological daughter last January. According to local press reports, the girl was hospitalized in October with bruises and bone fractures. Several wounds also were identified on the toddler’s head, and the child reportedly suffered three cardiac arrests before she died, JoongAng Daily reported Monday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called on agencies to revise guidelines for adoptions. His prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, said Tuesday laws would be strengthened to punish child abusers, the Korea Herald reported. South Korean police failed to respond to earlier reports of suspected child abuse, according to reports.
More than 230,000 people signed an online petition on Tuesday, asking for a retrial of Jeong-in’s adoptive parents, but some observers say they are concerned the whirlwind of attention the case is receiving could blow over quickly.
“All these bills are gone by the time the budget season comes, which means that child abuse is, in reality, anything but a priority to the political circle,” said Chung Ick-joong, a social welfare professor at Ewha Woman’s University, according to the Herald.
The anger being directed at the couple, who remain unidentified in local media, has led to the firing of the adoptive father, who was charged with negligence, according to local news service Newsis on Tuesday.
South Korea’s National Forensic Service said in its autopsy Jeong-in died of serious internal bleeding of her organs caused by external force, according to reports.