Police in South Korea have detained a man suspected of abducting a 7-year-old girl from her home and raping her, local police officials said Friday.
The parents of the girl realized she was missing at 7 a.m. Thursday and looked for her before reporting it to the police half an hour later in Naju, a city in the southwestern province of South Jeolla, said Kim Il-kyu, head of the criminal investigation department in Naju.
The city's police officers called for backup and 160 personnel from nearby police stations joined the search for the girl, he said. The girl was found at 12:55 p.m. Thursday on a sidewalk near a river in the city, according to Kim. She was naked, wrapped in a blanket and showed signs of having been raped, he said. She underwent an operation for organ damage, Kim added.
According to the police, the girl had been sleeping in the living room of her home with her mother and three siblings. She told officers she was taken by a man she didn't know. She was due to be questioned by a social worker on Friday.
Body fluid samples have been taken to the Criminal Investigation Laboratory, according to Kim. The police detained a suspect on Friday and took him to the police station in Naju for questioning, said two police officers with knowledge of the case who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
As public outrage over the case grew, President Lee Myung-bak made an unscheduled visit to the National Police Agency in Seoul on Friday. According to CNN affiliate YTN, Lee apologized for the authorities' failure to prevent the attack from taking place.
"The general public is extremely concerned about the lack of public order," he said. "The police should make every effort to restore public order."
South Koreans responded with anger on social media to news reports about the case. "The offender should get the highest punishment possible," a person using the name Yeonbang1996 said on Twitter. Others called specifically for the attacker to be castrated.
A law authorizing the use of chemical castration, a drug treatment intended to suppress sexual impulses, on some sex offenders came into effect in South Korea last year. People over the age of 19 who have sexually offended against children under the age of 16 and are diagnosed with pedophilia can be subject to the treatment, according to the Justice Ministry.