When 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, and here for a quick primer on the numerical rates of domestic violence in Korea (albeit in 2004), with many graphs and tables.
(By the way, although it was already common knowledge, it’s good that the Korean media is now naming the company. But I wonder if it was originally kept anonymous by a court order, or just by convention?)