Korean Police Can Now Give Restraining Orders on the Spot

(Source)

It’s just a short article, tucked away on page 6 of the Busan edition of the November 10th Focus (below). But still, it’s always nice to hear that a new domestic violence law is actually being enforced:

Abusive husband ‘officially isolated’

First incident since implementation of special exemption law

After the implementation of a special exemption law which includes domestic abuse punishment that allows police at the scene to officially isolate the persons concerned in the event of serious domestic abuse, the first case in the Busan area has emerged.

Busan Seobu Police Station revealed on November 9th that a police officer dispatched to the scene used his authority to order isolation and a restraining order for a  Mr. Kim (43), currently in the waiting period [lit. “careful consideration period”] for a divorce, who had gone to his wife, who is raising their 5-year-old son, and assaulted her; a court later decided to keep those measures in place.

Mr. Kim is under suspicion of going to the house of his wife (32), with whom he is in a divorce suit, in Busan’s Seogu on November 1st at 12:05AM, asking, “Why didn’t you answer the phone?” and committing violence that included hitting her, which he did habitually.

The couple filed for divorce in September, and a court ordered that Mr. Kim be allowed to visit his son, of whom his wife has custody, once a week on the weekend during their 3-month waiting period, but Mr. Kim went to his wife’s house on weekdays and became violent.

His wife, while being assaulted, notified the police, and the officer dispatched from the Ami Precinct Station ordered Mr. Kim to leave the house, not to come within 100 meters of his wife’s home, and not to use electronic communication like a cell phone or email to contact her.  After a review, a judge decided on November 2nd to keep the measures in place.

The measures represent the first case in Busan since a special exemption law for domestic abuse punishment that gives front-line police officers the authority to take such measures came into effect on October 26th.

Front-line officers can appraise conditions like the seriousness of the violence, the use of a deadly weapon, or habitual beating, and then take official action, and if the suspect violates those orders, the officer can impose fines of up to five million won or imprison him or her for a maximum of two months (end).

(Thanks to Marilyn for the translation)

Countering Sexual Violence in Korea (Updated)

Once again, Korea has gotten the lowest score of all high-income countries in a recent survey of gender-equality worldwide. And, at 104th out of 131 countries surveyed, it was bested by numerous much poorer countries at that.

Given that record, then it’s very easy to focus on Korea’s shortcomings when talking about gender issues. But that can mean that we can easily miss the positive developments that are occurring though, and sometimes right in front of our very noses.

Take what this humble-looking subway ad for instance, and what it ultimately represents. First, a translation:

부산 해바라기 여성 • 아동센터

Busan Sunflower Women & Children’s Center

여성 성폭력 피해자와 가정폭력 피해자, 학교폭력 피해자들을 돕고 있는 부산 원스톱 지원센터와 아동과 지적장애인 성폭력 피해자 전담센터인 부산 해바라기 아동센터가 2010년 1월 1일부터 부산 해바라기 여성 • 아동센터로 통합되었습니다.

From January 1, the Busan One-Stop Support Center, which helps female victims of sexual abuse, victims of family abuse, and victims of physical abuse at schools, and the Busan Sunflower Children’s Center, which helps children and mentally handicapped victims of sexual abuse, have joined together and become the Busan Sunflower Women & Children’s Center.

(Source)

여성부, 부산광역시, 부산지방경찰청에서 지원하고 동아대학교병원에서 수탁운영하는 여성 • 아동 폭력피해자 전담센터입니다.

With support from the Ministry of Gender Equality, the Busan Metropolitan City Council, and the Busan Metropolitan Police Agency, Dong-a University Hospital has been given the responsibility of operating the center, which provides consultations for female and child victims of abuse.

가족폭력, 성매매, 학교폭력, 성폭력 피해를 입은 여성과 아동을 보호하고 지원하고 치료합니다.

Women and children who are the victims of family violence, sex trafficking, school violence, and sexual abuse can receive protection and treatment at the center.

의사, 간호사, 임상심리사, 심리치료사, 성폭력 • 가정폭력 전문상담원, 여성 경찰관 등 각 분야 전문가들이 상주하고 있어 위기상황에서 가장 전문적이고 질 높은 상담, 의료, 심리치료, 수사, 법률 서비스를 무상으로 제공합니다.

Experts in many fields such as doctors, nurses, clinical psychologists, psychological therapists, family and sexual violence consultants, and female police officers and so on will be permanently stationed at the center, and when you are in a crisis you can receive the best professional and highest quality consultations, medical treatment, psychological counseling, legal advice, and assistance with launching criminal investigations. All these services are provided free of charge. (end)

(Source)

In my experience, usually the amalgamation of two government institutions in any country is in response to cost-cutting. Fortunately however, there’s a great deal of indirect evidence to suggest that that isn’t the case here.

First, note that the ad is actually quite dated, mentioning that the amalgamation was effective from January the 1st for instance (although the center didn’t officially open until February the 9th), and in particular that the Ministry of Gender Equality has a supporting role in it, whereas the Ministry actually reconverted back to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs (여성가족부/MOGEF) back in March. Presumably then, the ad has already been posted on Busan subway trains once before, probably late last year or early this one.

Why suddenly post the same ones again in late September then? What has changed to prompt that?

As Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling has well-documented, what has changed is the public perception that there has been a sudden and dramatic increase in the numbers of sex crimes against children, whereas in fact they have remained steady (but appallingly high) for years:

There is not a “recent series” of such sexual crimes – this is always happening. It’s just that the media has decided – as it does whenever a particular case angers people – to highlight these cases, which would usually either not be covered or covered by perhaps only one or two media outlets, and which are now linked together in articles in order to point to a great problem that exists. To be sure, there have been several laws passed since the murder of Lee Yu-ri in March (and the Yeongdeungpo case in June), and it’s great that the issue has finally gotten enough attention to get things moving (see here for a brief history of the slow pace of change since 2006). I’m not entirely sure that the solutions being offered are always the best ideas, however, and public fury (and worry) whipped up by this media coverage may be putting pressure on politicians to act first and think later.

And see past Korean Gender Reader posts for more details of those and other sexual crimes. By coincidence, one of the most notorious of those – the murder of Lee Yu-ri – also occurred in Busan, and several of my coworkers here have reported seeing rooms like that on the right pop up in Busan public schools they teach at in the months since, although unfortunately they have no information on the quality of their staffing or how often they are utilized. Have any readers also noticed them, in Busan or elsewhere?

(Note that the English translation on it may be a little misleading though: a better one would be “Consultation Room [for] Mental Anguish [caused by] Sexual Harassment or Sexual Violence”)

Regardless, the point is that given the current climate then it would be wise for the government to highlight all it is doing to prevent sexual violence, let alone to continue or even increase funding to women and children’s centers. And however cynical and reactionary the motives, this is to be applauded.

Granted, the amalgamation was decided and instituted well before the public outcry over the supposed recent spate of sexual crimes against children. But that doesn’t necessarily imply it was the result of a reduction of funding: although it may receive little if any funding from MOGEF for instance, I find it significant that the Ministry’s assumption of old responsibilities came with a big increase in staff and 4 times larger budget (albeit from a base of 0.03% of the government total), so when the plans for the change were announced late last year there was already a political climate conducive to more funding for feminist causes.  Signs of a change of heart from President Lee Myung-bak also perhaps, who originally promised to abolish it before his election, only to back down and merely considerably downsize it in response to protests afterwards?

Alas, quite the opposite: in fact, he is using MOGEF to raise the dire birth rate by – wait for it – criminalizing abortion, as I explain in detail here. But to play devils’ advocate however, perhaps this blinds us to some of the positives that it has achieved?

One is its survey of teenage entertainers in August, which – among other things – revealed that many were pressured by their managers to wear revealing costumes, and which ultimately resulted in the National Assembly’s setting up of a committee (albeit under a different ministry) to further investigate MOGEF’s findings. And which after hearing evidence from entertainment company CEOs has just laid down new regulations for the treatment of minors in the entertainment industry (see here and here also for more background).

And finally, take the recent video produced by MOGEF below, which encourages people to pay more attention to the needs of immigrant women. Granted, it’s just a video, and again it may be just be in response to the recent murder of a Vietnamese bride by her husband after only 8 days in the country (see #13 here), but then it’s not like such efforts started only recently. One thing that instantly comes to mind for instance, is the above survey that was sent to all foreign spouses in Korea in August last year (see #3 here), in an attempt to better find out their specific needs.

Any other positives readers can think of, however minor, then please pass them on!^^

Update: As per request, here is what the voiceover in the video is saying (and I’ve put the additional text in brackets as it came up):

이주여성들을 힘들게 하는건 (부부갈등 상담 8, 452건)

The things that make it difficult for migrant women… (8, 452 consultations for married couples having difficulties)

어려운 한국어와 (가정폭력 상담 4205 건 [2009년 이주여성 긴급지원센터 상담통계)

…are difficult Korean… (4205 consultations over family violence/abuse [2009 Statistics from Migrant Urgent Help & Consultation Centers])

낯선 환경, 다른 문화

…the strange environment, the different culture…

그리고 우리의 무관심입니다. (국제결혼 이주여성 16만여명)

…and our indifference. (lit. international marriage migrant women 160,000 women [James: just in 2009?])

이주여성들에게 작은 관심은 큰 힘이 됩니다.

Just a little help and support helps migrant women a great deal (same in the text)

이주여성들의 힘이 되어주세요.

Please be strong and supportive to them.

이캠폐인은 여성가족부와 복권위원회가 함께 합니다. (이주여성긴급지원센터, 1577-1336)

This campaign is brought to you by MOGEF and The Lottery Commission. (Migrant Women’s Urgent Help & Consultation Centers: 1577-1366)

And by coincidence, something else positive that MOGEF has some role in: a seminar about women’s career development at my university tomorrow (stalkers, take note of which one). Things like this seem to go on there at least once a month or so.

Maybe this has something to do with that, which I only just noticed today:

Please let me know if anyone would like a translation of the first poster. Meanwhile, do any other Korea-based readers have anything similar at their own universities?

Choi Jin-sil Sued For Being Beaten by Her Husband: Update

Choi Jin-sil holding back tearsWhen hearing last week about something as appalling as an actress being sued for daring to show her bruises and black eyes to the media, it’s only human nature to assume the worst of Korean society.

But while Korea certainly does have a great deal of work to do in combating domestic violence – and criminalizing spousal rape would be an essential first step (see #2 here) – it’s also true that police and legal attitudes towards it have considerably hardened in recent years, both cause and effect of a law change in 2007 that requires police to forward all cases of domestic violence to a prosecutor (the previous 1998 law just left it up to their own discretion). In addition, Korean women are now more likely than ever to divorce on the basis of verbal or physical abuse, rather than suffering silently as in past decades.

Indeed, what stands out more than anything else about the court decision is how much it goes against the grain of trends within Korean society, and certainly does not reflect the will of all Koreans. Some quick excerpts from today’s Korea Times for instance:

Women’s groups are angry over the top court’s ruling that ordered the late actress Choi Jin-sil (최진실) to compensate a builder for failing to maintain “dignity” as a model representing its products.

They censured the Supreme Court for not realizing the suffering of domestic violence victims, which included Choi.

Korean Womenlink, the Korea Women’s Hot Line, and the Korea Women’s Association United issued a joint statement Wednesday lambasting the ruling.

On June 4, the court reversed a high court ruling that decided in favor of Choi in a compensation suit filed by Shinhan Engineering and Construction in 2004 against the actress, who was the model for its apartments.

The advertiser claims she did not keep her contractual obligation to “maintain dignity,” because she disclosed to the public her bruised and swollen face which was caused by the violence of her then husband, former baseball player Cho Sung-min. They divorced soon afterward.

For the rest see here. Also, see here for my original post on this issue and information about similar cases in the past, see here for my introduction to domestic violence in Korea, and finally, for a quick primer on the numerical rates of domestic violence in Korea (albeit in 2004), with many graphs and tables, see here.

(Although it was already common knowledge, it’s good that the Korean media is now naming the company by the way. But I wonder if it was originally kept anonymous by a court order, or just by convention?)

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Firm Sues Dead Actress For Being Beaten by Her Husband – And Wins

Choi Jin-sil holding back tearsA simply outrageous story, that couldn’t really wait for my “Korean Gender Reader” on Monday.

But, given the similar case of the singer Ivy (아이비), whose reputation was ruined by her ex-boyfriend threatening to release a sex-video of her to the media in late 2007, and who was later sued by advertisers for this despite the video never actually existing, then this latest case with Choi Jin-sil (최진실) is exceptional only in degree really.

However, in suing an actress that committed suicide, the unnamed construction company (Update: It’s Shinhan/신한건설) below may well have pushed the limits of public acceptability, and this will hopefully incur a backlash that will far outweigh the relatively small gains now to be provided by her estate.

To play Devil’s Advocate for the moment though, the appeal was probably submitted to the Supreme Court well before Choi Jin-sil’s death in October last year (Update: Indeed, it was submitted 5 years ago). But even so, of course it is deplorable that the company submitted the original suit in the first place, and I’m sure that it would have still been possible to withdraw it afterwards.

Models who failed to maintain appropriate dignity as representatives of the products they represent should compensate for the damages caused to their advertiser, the top court ruled.

The Supreme Court reversed the original ruling and ruled in favor of a construction company that filed a suit against the deceased actress Choi Jin-sil, who committed suicide last October.

The company, upon hiring the top actress as their representing model in March 2004, concluded a contract stating Choi’s duties to pay back 500 million won ($399,361), should she depreciate the company’s social reputation.

However, in August, Choi appeared on television and newspapers with her face full of bruises, allegedly caused by the violence of her then husband and retired baseball player Cho Sung-min.

Choi and Cho, who had been living apart since 2002, divorced soon after the incident.

The advertiser company thus filed a suit against the actress, requesting for 3 billion won as compensation. The amount included the 500 million won in damages as stated in the contract, additional compensation of 400 million won and 210 million won in advertising costs spent by the company.

“The purpose of the brand model contract is to use the model’s social reputation and images to draw the customers’ interest,” said the Supreme Court in the ruling. “The model’s failure to maintain an adequate image constitutes a breach of the hiring contract.”

The concept of the apartment Choi was supposed to advertise was dignity and happiness, and Choi, as its model, was under the obligation to act accordingly, said the court.

A lower court said in an earlier ruling that Choi could not be held responsible for depreciating the image of the apartment or the company as she had not been proven guilty of causing her former husband’s violence.

Choi’s mother presented herself at court, as legal representative of her two children who succeeded their mother’s duties and became defendants of the case.

The estimated value of Choi’s estate is about 5 billion won, including real estate and bank savings, according to her family.

(Source: Korea Herald)

See here for more information about domestic violence in Korea, and #2 here for more on a custody battle which Choi Jin-sil’s family also had to face in October 2008, but which her ex-husband was persuaded to give up (see here and here), and which in turn ushered in positive changes in the Korean legal system. Here’s hoping this latest case will similarly have a silver lining, and force Korean companies to rethink the ethics and long-term financial value of insisting on compensation for events beyond celebrities’ control.

An Introduction to Domestic Violence in Japan

For more detailed information, see Ken’s three part series on the 2006 survey on domestic violence by the Cabinet Office of Japan (Gender Equality Bureau) at What Japan Thinks here.

Alternatively, for those of you more interested in domestic violence in Korea, then see here for the first installment in my series on that. Further afield, see here for information on the dramatic decrease in spouse-to-spouse murders in the US over the last 30 years (extreme, but still related), which deserves to be much more widely known.

(Via: Feministing)

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“Breathless”: A New Korean Movie on Domestic Violence

똥파리-breathless-movie-posterMy own series of posts on domestic violence in Korea is on temporary hiatus as I realize I should finish others first, but in the meantime the new movie “Breathless” (똥파리, or “shit fly” in typically earthy Korean) on that theme looks like something I should definitely take some time to watch. In the words of Korea Times reporter Lee Hyo-won, whose film reviews are of such high quality that I confess I cut out and keep most of them:

…”Breathless” explores the murky gray zone between compassion and cruelty, redemption and revenge, and the blessings and curses of family bonds. In a nutshell, it’s a family drama that’s inappropriate for children. While harrowingly violent, however, the multiple-award winning film by director-lead actor-producer Yang Ik-june seethes with warmth and humor.

The film is making headlines for entering almost 20 international film events and picking up top prizes, including, most recently, the SIGNIS Prize and the Audience Award, Wednesday, at the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival. And the movie does not disappoint, and establishes Yang as a name to watch out for.

Read here for the remainder, and here for an interview and short biography of producer, director and lead actor(!) Yang Ik-june (양익준), who sounds like a bit of maverick:

”I want to say ‘ – you’ to the world through my films,” he said. He also wants to show the male private parts onscreen someday. ”Koreans think it’s artistic when they see it in a foreign film, but here they censor it. We feel unstable in this world because we want things to be safe all the time, but we need to be courageous,” said the director, who respects cineastes like John Cameron Mitchell (”Shortbus”). ”Sex is part of life,” he said.

For more on the recent decision to allow Shortbus to be screened, see here. I definitely share his sentiments, and as someone notorious among my friends for never shying away from sexual topics myself, then I very much look forward to more films from him!

(Image Source: KoreaFilm.co.kr)

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