Sexual Assault on Subway Caught on Camera

Here’s my translation of a brief report from Sunday’s 8 News. Unfortunately, SBS is pretty strict about copyright, so I can’t risk uploading the video to Youtube. But it’s readily available at the original link:

애인인 취한 20 여인 옆에 앉아 성추행 /  Drunk man sits next to drunk 20-something, pretends to be lovers, sexually assaults her

Anchor:

지하철에서 옆자리에 잠든 20대 여성을 마치 자신의 여자친구인 양 쓰다듬으며 성추행하던 남성이 붙잡혔습니다. 카메라에 그 모습이 담겼는데요, 정경윤 기자가 보도합니다.

A man has been arrested [in Seoul] for sexually assaulting a 20-something woman sitting next to him on the subway, pretending she was his girlfriend. This scene was recorded on camera. Jeong Gyeong-yoon reports.

Jeong Gyeong-yoon:

지난 20일 새벽, 지하철 전동차에 50대 남자와 20대 여자가 나란히 앉아 있습니다. 여자는 잠들어 있고 옆에 앉은 남자는 마치 연인처럼 행동합니다 10여 분간 껴안고 쓰다듬는 등 신체 접촉을 계속합니다. 하지만 이 남자의 행동을 수상하게 여긴 한 시민에 의해 성추행은 발각됐습니다.

In the early hours of Wednesday the 2oth, a man in his 50s and a women in her 20s were sitting side by side on a subway train. While she was sleeping, the man acted as if they were lovers for about 10 minutes, embracing and caressing her, and continuously touching her body. But this looked a little suspicious to another passenger, through whom this sexual assault was exposed.

[라 모 씨/목격자 : 나이 차이가 많이 나 보이고 수상해서 계속 보는데, 여자를 깨워서 이 남자분 아시냐고 했더니 모른다는 거예요. 바로 남자 멱살을 잡고 끌고 나왔죠.]

(Anonymous) Recorder of video: Because the difference in their ages was so great, it looked a little suspicious to me, so I kept an eye on them.  When the woman woke up, I asked if she knew him, and when she replied that she didn’t, I immediately grabbed him by the throat and dragged him off the train.

남자는 현행범으로 경찰에 붙잡혔지만, 술에 취해 기억이 나지 않는다며 혐의를 부인했습니다.

지난 5월에는 심야에 20대 여성이 성추행을 당한 뒤 도망쳤지만 주변 도움을 받지 못해 또 다시 폭행당하는 사건도 있었습니다. 지하철 성범죄 가운데 심야 시간대 발생 비율은 4.1%. 하지만 취객이 많고 주위 도움을 받을 수 없는 경우가 많아 여성들이 느끼는 불안감은 더 큽니다.

The man was arrested by police, but because he was drunk he didn’t remember it, and denied doing it.

In May, there was also a case of a woman who also sexually assaulted [James - presumably on the subway] at about midnight, but when she escaped she was unable to get any help, and so got sexually assaulted again. And the reported cases of women being sexually assaulted on the subway in the late evening have increased 4.1% [James - compared to last year?]. With so many drunk people [men?], and so many cases of no help being available, then women are increasingly anxious.

[장소영/서울 천호동 : 술주정 하시는 분들도 많고, 그런 분들이 다른 여성들한테 해코지 하는 것도 많이 봐서…]

Jang So-yeong, Seoul (Cheon-ho dong) resident: There are many drunk people [men?] around, I’ve seen them treat women badly many times…

늦은 시각 지하철 성범죄가 잇따르자 서울시가 19년 만에 여성전용칸을 부활하겠다는 방침을 밝혔지만, 반응은 신통치 않습니다.

Because there was a succession of sexual crimes on the subway 19 years ago, then back then a special women-only carriage was provided. This idea is being revived, but public reaction has been negative.

[지하철 역무원 : 취약 시간대 별 효과 거두지 못할 것 같아요. 여성 전용칸만 보고 지키는 사람이 없잖아요.]

Subway Worker: I don’t think it will be effective at those late hours when women are most vulnerable. It’s not as if labeling a carriage women only will dissuade people who set out to assault women.

지하철 성범죄는 갈수록 늘고 있지만, 대책은 아직도 미흡합니다.

Day by day, sex crimes on the subway are increasing, but there’s still no satisfactory policy to deal with them.

(영상취재 : 홍종수, 영상편집 : 박선수) 정경윤 rousily@sbs.co.kr / Data Collection: Hong Jong-soo, Editing, Compilation: Park Seon-su. Written by Jeong Gyeong-yoon (end).

Unfortunately that report raises many more questions than answers, but still: kudos to the guy who didn’t just record the scene but actually did something about it as well. And thanks to reader Mallory for passing the report on.

For anyone further interested, see Global Voices here for much more on the Korean public reaction’s to the planned women-only subway cars (update: the Marmot’s Hole also has a post on it), or The Three Wise Monkeys here for some context on the recent increase in sexual crimes in Seoul specifically (including some mention of subways). Or, for more on sexual harassment and sexual assault in general, see my posts in that category, especially this one on groping.

(p.s. If anyone’s curious, some text on the screen said that the incident happened on Line 5)

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30 thoughts on “Sexual Assault on Subway Caught on Camera

  1. The ‘women only’ car is such as spectacularly offensive idea. Let’s hope it continues to meet strong opposition.

  2. I’m kind of shocked that no one has mentioned Japan’s women only carriages or I just need to wear my glasses when I read…

    Why do you think it’s offensive? I think it’s offensive because instead of enforcing the law properly and blaming the attacker, they are just shifting the potential victims away. How can we feel remotely safe with such an attitude? If such a problem is an issue, promotion of tackling bystander effect, people having the chance to feel brave enough to sexually assault, and teaching that sexual assault is wrong is what I’d call for.

    • I didn’t know if there were any women-only subway cars in Japan or not sorry: it’s difficult enough to keep up with the news about Korean plans for them sorry! But if you or anyone else could pass on some links about them, then that would be appreciated.

      • There are.
        I just came from Japan and in high traffic times there are labeled cars. Men do sometimes still get on, but they stick out so much that I think it would be outrageous for them to try anything. I don’t see how it’s offensive. The train is still 90% for everyone. Giving women a few cars to feel at peace seems perfectly fine to me. Then again, I’m a girl.

        • Well it’s not the car in itself but the laziness of the solution and the problematic side-effects, as mentioned.

          • Exactly with what abcfsk said. I am also a woman, but I wouldn’t feel at peace knowing my government is too lazy to create a society where those behaviours are accepted or blame is shifted. As I walk into the women only car, all I will think about is how unsafe I am… that I must enter a gender segregated area.

    • Yes, that’s why I find it offensive. I also think they should start with getting rid of girls and boys only classes / schools, might help a few guys who don’t know how to behave in front of the opposite sex.

      • Rather it should benefit both sides. Girls also do not know how to behave with the opposite sex/gender if they haven’t been taught or had interaction. There is always some assumptions girls and women will just know better.

  3. There are women only subway cars in Japan. I saw them when I was in Tokyo in 2005. I read so many reports of pervs on the Tokyo line.

  4. A women only subway car is an incredibly sexist idea. Its bad enough that Korea has ‘women only’ parking spots, which are bigger than standard because ‘women can’t drive’.

    The idea that women who don’t want to be raped should go out of their way to use a women-only subway car simply passes blame onto women who are raped or assaulted while NOT using the women-only car.

    “hey man, she was askin’ for it, she wasn’t in the women-only car and hey – I was drunk and lonely, so I couldn’t help myself”

    • ‘women can’t drive’ is your quotation. They’re wider to help pregnant women get out of their cars. The other reason women spaces exist is so that they can be in well-lit, well-observed places. It WAS funny that they made them wider, but there was a reason.

      • About to go to bed sorry, but some clarification before I do: unfortunately the posts got lost in Korea Beat’s transition to Asian Correspondent, but I can confirm (see here and #3 here for instance) that while original newspaper reports on the car parks did say that the logic behind them was that women were worse drivers, that turned out to be a complete fabrication by the reporter, and that the real reason was indeed to allow mothers to better unload pushchairs, and so on (so you’re both right!). I think that that’s still problematic – like I say here, it reinforces the notion that childcare is and/or should be primarily women’s job – but that’s another issue.

    • It may be sexist or offensive, but at least it’s some solution. Or we can just wait around until people no longer commit these types of crimes. I agree that the focus should be on the attackers, and they need much harsher sentences, but in the mean time….

      • I was going to write something along the same lines, but didn’t get around to it (full credit to you for raising it then!). Either way, it all boils down to – or should all boil down to – what women themselves want, so for my next translation I’d like to follow up on Roboseyo’s question here and investigate what women’s groups etc. are saying about it.

        Judging by what I’ve read about the Japanese women-only carriages in the comments here though, then I wouldn’t be surprised if most supported it (and that, like you say, of course it’s insufficient by itself).

  5. Why is public intoxication and drunkenness so accepted in this country and why do criminals get a pass ‘because they were drunk’? Do they have no public intoxication laws? Are they not enforced? I hope someday soon that some Korean woman goes all Bernie Geotz on one of these idiots.

    • Agreed. But technically speaking, the article doesn’t say if he was let off the hook for being drunk or not (that’s one of the “more questions raised than answers”). Given the video evidence though, I’d wager that he did get at least get fined or something.

      Something for me look for in any longer news articles on it!

  6. (James – In response to this and later comments, “sexual harassment’ was changed to “sexual assault” in the text)

    I am not sure why you have chosen to translate 성추행 as sexual harassment, but it feel like a serious mistranslation to me. What you have pictured in your top video is definitely not 성희롱 (the standard term used for sexual harassment) it is 성추행 which is defined as molestation or a sex crime (but perhaps not the level of 성폭행/sexual assault). Referring to it as the latter diminishes the gravity of the offense to me. Especially considering he is physically violating someone against their will.

    Anyway just my two cents.

    • I don’t find Jame’s translation anywhere near as problematic as you seem to, since while most dictionaries will translate “성추행” as molestation, in English this is now so commonly paired with the idea of child molestation that the broader category of sexual assault (which would include molestation) is perfectly appropriate. If anything, I would interpret what happened as sexual assault, but that’s clearly not the term used by the Korean article.

      • To be honest, I didn’t give the word a second thought. Apologies for my sloppiness then, but I agree with Gomushin Girl that molestation would be inappropriate (for the reasons she gave). But I’m not sure if you’re (GG) saying that it should be translated as sexual assault or not sorry(?), but regardless I have to admit that, to me, that term conjures up a much greater severity of crime, although I admit I’d be hard pressed to come up with precise definitions – touching of buttocks, breasts, and/or genitals perhaps, and/or using physical force to do so. Which in turn leads onto where sexual assault ends and rape begins, if indeed these things should be though of as anything but a continuum (but which I guess it’s legally necessary to do so).

        Anyway, I think the incident is more on the sexual harassment side of that continuum, and don’t see how it’s different to groping, say, which I think would technically be sexual assault but don’t think most people would describe as such. But still, I need to investigate the definitions more thoroughly, and will happily defer to anybody’s greater knowledge. As I do to your greater Korean ability Gomushin Girl, although still, I personally, humbly, disagree that most Korean dictionaries translate “성추행” as “molestation”. In my own experience, the definitions usually give the whole gamut of “harassment”, “assault”, “molestation”, and “rape”, whereas in practical examples it is indeed usually translated as molestation. All well illustrated by Naver’s entry on it here!

        • Allow me to reference Merriam-Webster Dictionary then for just the English words

          Sexual harassment – uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (as an employee or student).

          Sexual assault – illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (as because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority.

          Ignoring the Korean definitions, which action more closely approximates what is occurring in the photo? Saying sexual harassment, for better or worse, invokes images of sexual jokes or unwanted advances in the office place that can lead to a reprimand or termination of employment, but generally not criminal proceedings. The photo above is not a case of that.

          From Naver:

          성희롱: 이성에게 상대편의 의사에 관계없이 성적으로 수치심을 주는 말이나 행동을 하는 일.

          Words or actions that cause a member of the opposite sex to feel uncomfortable (shame or humiliation) regardless of intention.

          성추행: 일방적인 성적 만족을 얻기 위하여 물리적으로 신체 접촉을 가함으로써 상대방에게 성적 수치심을 불러일으키는 행위.

          Physical contact for the purpose of personal sexual gratification that causes discomfort (shame or humiliation) to another party.

          성폭행 – ‘강간2’(强姦)을 완곡하게 이르는 말.

          Another expression that means rape.

          강간 – 폭행 또는 협박 따위의 불법적인 수단으로 부녀자를 간음함.

          Fornication with a woman through the use of illegal means like violence or threats.

          As I see it Sexual Assault is a more apt description for the act that is taking place in the photo and sexual harassment is not severe enough. You and jelly shoes may feel to disagree with me, but I feel like the definitions speak for themselves. It seems clear to me that 성희롱 more closely approximates sexual harassment while 성추행 more closely approximates sexual assault.

          Another issue worth discussing at greater length is how the definitions for such acts in one of Korea’s most popular dictionaries are sexist in nature. The assertion that men cannot be raped or that sexual harassment cannot occur between members of the same sex is disconcerting to me.

            • Hey, just because I haven’t agreed with most of your Korean-English translations Taemin, doesn’t mean I never listen to anyone. Hell, there’s even an example of me accepting my mistake and changing my translation just a few comments below, which I guess you didn’t bother to read.

              As it happens, I thought 조엘 made a good case, and was already going to edit the post as per his suggestion(s). Just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

  7. I think you’ve made a bit of a mistranslation with one of the quotes given in the article:
    “여성 전용칸만 보고 지키는 사람이 없잖아요.” Should read something more like “It’s not as if people will look at women only cars and stick to that.” – Basically, the meaning is that you can label a carriage women only but that doesn’t mean that someone out to assault won’t still do it.

    • Thanks: will fix that and respond to other comments tomorrow morning. Must gulp down coffee and catch taxi to Seoul Station in a few minutes, then be back at home in Busan by 11:30 (sigh).

      • Back. I thought your (better) translation was a bit unclear though, so I went out of character and changed it to more to what you wrote the meaning was. Korean learners, please forgive me!

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  9. I would like to be a witness of something like this, just to grab the motherf.. and kick his ass until he “remembers” everything. Although Korean girls dressed very fancy, sexy and provocative it does not give you the right to treat them with disrespect, unless is consented lol

  10. An old post, but it appalls me that women would have to go into a separate car. This is part and parcel of the same problem in Japan: instead of blaming the perpetrators – the men – and facing this as a society, people avoid insulting the elders and making any serious waves or demanding change (Oh NO! CHANGE! Heaven forbid!), they just put the women into a separate car.

    Typical: Avoid the problem, don’t stick out, don’t make waves. Solve the problem by not addressing it.

    Japan and Korea are similar in this regard, though Japan is more serious: Social harmony means not dealing with issues. Otherwise, guys like these would be hauled off by everyone and given the one-two. But no – most people do nothing, and are hammered down if they have opinions that cause “social waves”.

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