South Korea says it's taking tougher action against sex offenders by allowing plaintiffs other than the direct targets of sexual violence to press charges of rape or sexual harassment.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that it has removed a clause in the criminal code that allowed sexual violence cases to go forward only if the victim took legal action.

Attorney Lee Kyung-hwan says the law will help victims who sometimes had their cases revoked because shame led them to not press charges.

Lee says the new law allows friends and family to take initial legal action on behalf of adult victims.

Seoul says reported sex crimes have risen sharply over the past decade. The South Korean presidential spokesman was fired in May after a sexual harassment claim.