Consensual Sex with a Minor (in Korea)

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In South Korea, if you have consensual sex with someone:

[19 or older] –> it’s not a crime.

[13-18] –> it’s not a crime unless you did so “by authority/deception.”

[12 or younger] –> it’s a crime (unless you had no way of knowing).

Note 1 : Ages in int’l age, not Korean age.

Note 2 : The age of majority in Korea is 19.

Note 3 : In Korea, prostitution is a crime regardless of age.


A Recent Case: Recently, the Seoul High Court acquitted a nursing hagwon administrator (male; age 44) who had sex with a hagwon student (female; age 17). The lower court had acquitted him also.

The prosecution’s argument: The man promised the student to buy her things and help her land a job (if she went out with him). She acceded only out of fear she would be kicked out. (FYI, she was from a single-parent family, and she was attending the hagwon for free.) Therefore, her “consent” was, in fact, forced consent. “Forced” because it’d be unrealistic to expect someone under those circumstances to have said no. And if so, one could say she was essentially coerced into having sex with the man. Note: In a nutshell, this is what “by authority” means.

Why the acquittal: In the court’s view, she could have said no. Also: 1) She often met up with him even after having sex; 2) It took a while before officially reporting him as a rapist; 3) In court, she wasn’t able to answer/testify as was written in the indictment. In short, her incomplete testimony alone was nowhere enough to satisfy “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” Note: Even when a pupil is involved, it’s not an open-and-shut case. Remember, it’s not “by position of authority.”


DID YOU KNOW? In the UK, a soccer player named Adam Johnson was recently found guilty and sentenced to 6 years in prison for having sex with a 15-year-old female fan. (They say the age of consent in the UK is 16. Had it been in Korea, he probably would have been found not guilty.)


In Korea, the courts seem to interpret “by authority” as: “The victim was psychologically so overwhelmed by the situation that even though he/she may have given consent, it was more out of fear than free will.” So in our case, the prosecution would have needed proof (something along the lines that) she had actually loathed, feared and tried to avoid the man. But reports say, she regularly dined with him, attended hagwon as usual, and even called him oppa. Her unreliable testimony (in court) did not help either. The court had no choice maybe.

Yesterday, the Constitutional Court of Korea ruled as unconstitutional a piece of law which had prohibited all sex offenders (whose victim was ages 13-18) from working for/in any juvenile-related organization for 10 years. While the law may seem fair, the Court’s main reasoning was that applying such a ban across the board was too harsh. They felt such a ban automatically assumed that all such offenders (w/o exception) are potential recidivists (even after treatment). What’s more, slapping such a ban on all offenders regardless of severity of the offense was unfair too.

Thanks for reading!

To learn a little more about today’s topic, click here.

Service with a Smile (in Korea)

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Recently here in South Korea, a court ordered a 34-year-old man to spend 5 days in jail for causing a ruckus at the bank. Among other things, he forced a female bank teller to smile while tending to him.

According to reports:

1) The man demanded that his bank teller smile (because it’s her duty as someone in the services industry).

2) Angry, he then told her to manually count his 50 mil won, which took up about 1 hour of her time (instead of 10 minutes).

3) Later, he asked a different teller to increase the max transaction limit of his friend’s account. When denied this request, he turned violent.

4) Out of spite, the man reported to the police that the bank tellers had threatened him, which was totally false.

Via summary trial (즉결심판), the man was found guilty of pokhaeng (a crime akin to battery) and interference with business. The 5-day lockup he received is called “detention” (구류). By law, “detention” cannot exceed 29 days. This case also made headlines because it’s highly irregular for a court to order “detention” via summary judgment. Summary judgments are reserved for petty crimes, so the corresponding punishment is almost always a minor fine. Still, the judge did cut him slack because the conviction will not make it into his criminal record.

Thanks for reading!

Supreme Court of Korea: What is a Hagwon?

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In Korea, the Supreme Court recently affirmed an appellate court decision which had found a hagwon owner guilty of failure to register his hagwon. (He received a criminal fine of KRW 500,000 via a deferred sentence.) The above photo has no relation to this case; it’s just a hagwon I stumbled upon in Saipan. FYI, “배움의 터” means “a place of learning.”

So, why all the way up to the Supreme Court? A: There was question over whether the defendant’s “hagwon” was indeed a (school-related) hagwon under Korean law. And if not, no registration was necessary.

The relevant law here is the ACT ON THE ESTABLISHMENT, OPERATION OF PRIVATE TEACHING INSTITUTES AND EXTRACURRICULAR LESSONS (학원의 설립·운영 및 과외교습에 관한 법률) and its enforcement decree.

Now, the hagwon in question taught kids “how to study” for school subjects. Their focus was on overall methodology. So technically, they did not teach stuff like what/how to memorize or do admissions consulting (like other hagwons). This was the owner’s argument for why they were technically not a hagwon. To this, the Court said, “pish posh!” “potayto potahto!” While they may not have (directly) imparted knowledge contained in the textbooks, they still taught things relating to those textbooks. Plus, such a distinction is hard to make and not always clear.

The criminal punishment for failure to properly register one’s hagwon is max 1 year or 5 mil won. In this case, however, the actual punishment ended up being really light because even the Office of Education had been confused and all over the place. A “deferred sentence” (선고유예) is technically a guilty sentence, but if you’re able to keep your nose clean for 2 years, the whole thing is stricken from your criminal record.


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K-pop Trivia: Sechs Kies’s debut song (in 1997) was “A Song of Hagwon” (학원별곡). In the song, they criticized the state of South Korea’s education system. That students are all told to concentrate only on subjects like Korean/English/Math and get into a “first-rate university.”


I personally have nothing against spending money on private education. My concern is whether such large investments made by so many actually make us any happier. Do the things we study and memorize actually enrich our lives, or are they discardable tidbits whose only function is to serve as a basis in deciding to whom go the spoils (of life)…

Thanks for reading!

The Daegu Coed Kidnap-Murder Case (of 2010)

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In Korea, the Supreme Court recently affirmed an appellate (civil) court decision which had found the government/police 30% responsible for the death of a female college student who was kidnapped (in Daegu) back in 2010. This means the government/police (i.e., a co-defendant) will have to pay the victim’s family (i.e., the plaintiff) about 96 mil won.

Reasoning: The police made a series of bumbling errors which contributed to the kidnapper murdering the victim.

1) The police prematurely froze the kidnapper’s bank account which alerted the kidnapper of police involvement (and angered him).

2) The police failed to nab the kidnapper from right under their nose/checkpoint. The kidnapper was able to escape the ensuing police chase. (The victim was still alive and inside the fleeing vehicle!)

3) Then, the kidnapper passed through several highway tollbooths w/o any problem.

4) A senior police officer was drunk/asleep while on stakeout at the victim’s home.

5) There was a similar/related incident right before this one which was not properly paid attention to.

The police caught the kidnapper in 48 hours, but by then it was too late.

Conclusion: As joint tortfeasors, the government/police were 30% responsible and the kidnapper/murderer 70%. (FYI, the trial court had found the government/police only 10% responsible. The appellate court and Supreme Court raised this to 30%.) YTN news report below.

Having resided in Korea since 1996, I personally find it difficult to rely on the government to look after my best interests. I’m just a number.

Thanks for reading!

The Serious Crime of ‘False Accusation’ (in Korea)

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In Korea, “False Accusation” (무고) is a serious crime. If found guilty, you can/will end up in prison (no probation). Two women recently met with this fate for falsely accusing rape: Case 1, Case 2. And below are (Korean) Supreme Court cases worthy of note. I present only the conclusion/gist.


1. It doesn’t matter that it was something the “victim” secretly okayed – that he/she was willing to take the rap for it (Supreme Court Decision of September 30, 2005, 2005Do2712).

2. The events referred to (in the accusation) must relate to an actual crime, but those events need not spell out all the elements of a crime. (Supreme Court Decision of April, 13, 2007, 2006Do558; Supreme Court Decision of May 25, 2006, 2005Do4642).

3. Reporting only his/her accomplice’s crime – but not one’s own involvement – IS NOT “False Accusation” (Supreme Court Decision of August 21, 2008, 2008Do3754).

4. The prosecution has to affirmatively prove the falsity of the accuser’s claim, meaning “failure to recognize the veracity” is not enough (Supreme Court Decision of January 27, 2004, 2003Do5114).

5. Exaggerating (unimportant) details that do not affect the constitution of a crime IS NOT “False Accusation” (Supreme Court Decision of January 16, 2004, 2003Do7178).

6. An accused who (simultaneously) files a criminal complaint saying something like, “Please punish the accuser for ‘False Accusation’ in the event that his/her accusation turns out to be groundless…” CAN BE “False Accusation” (Supreme Court Decision of March 15, 2007, 2006Do9453).

7. Reporting a crime for which the statute of limitations has expired IS NOT “False Accusation,” but reporting it by making it seem like it hasn’t (expired) IS “False Accusation” (Supreme Court Decision of February 8, 1994, 93Do3445; Supreme Court Decision of December 5, 1995, 95Do1908).

8. The reporting itself must have been voluntary (and/or part of the criminal complaint) – not merely a byproduct of police questioning (Supreme Court Decision of February 9, 1996, 95Do2652).

9. Once a criminal complaint is submitted (to the police), the crime of “False Accusation” is complete and can’t be undone (Supreme Court Decision of February 8, 1985, 84Do2215).

10. Article 157 refers to instances where the person specifically confesses of having committed “False Accusation,” meaning simply admitting having lied is not enough (Supreme Court Decision of September 5, 1995, 94Do755).


These are sort of the things I had to memorize for the multiple-choice section of the (Korean) Bar Exam. There are many more cases regarding “False Accusation,” but I chose to share the above 12 for the time being.

Thanks for reading!

‘Reckless Driving’ & ‘Retaliatory Driving’ are Crimes (in Korea)!

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For this post, I’ve translated “난폭운전” as “reckless driving” and “보복운전” as “retaliatory driving.” Both are crimes in South Korea.


I. Reckless Driving (난폭운전)

“Reckless driving” refers to any two of the following done successively OR any one of the following done repetitively –> thereby endangering other motorists: 1) signal violation, 2) crossing the center line, 3) speeding, 4) illegal crossing/U-turn/backing, 5) unlawful lane change, 6) sudden deceleration, 7) unlawful overtaking, 8) failure to maintain a safe distance, and 9) honking or making loud noises w/o justification.

The criminal punishment for “reckless driving” is max 1 year or 5 mil won. The clip above is of a reckless driver/streamer recently caught.


II. Retaliatory Driving (보복운전)

“Retaliatory driving” is a form of road rage which refers to deliberately driving one’s vehicle in a threatening/dangerous manner with the intent to harm/threaten a specific motorist or cause damage to his/her vehicle.

“Retaliatory driving” normally constitutes the crime of “Special Intimidation” (특수협박), and the punishment is max 7 years or 10 mil won. The clip above is of an angry airport bus driver. He retaliated after an SUV cut him off. (He was on duty with passengers on board!)

Retaliatory drivers sometimes get away with this crime by performing a threatening/dangerous maneuver only once. They later say it wasn’t deliberate – that they did so by mistake or to protect a pedestrian. For this crime, establishing intent (beyond a reasonable doubt) is critical.


DID YOU KNOW? Korean police have been cracking down on “reckless driving” and “retaliatory driving.” Since February of this year, they have arrested 803 motorists. FYI, anyone can report, but you need footage.


Recently, I was able to read De Ira (On Anger) written by Seneca. (I read it in Korean.) In the book/essay, Seneca challenges the notion: “Anger is sometimes necessary and justified.” Philosophy books often help me clarify what the truly important things in life are. Then, I try to focus on those things. I say philosophy books are the best self-help books!

Bill Maher Would be a Criminal in South Korea

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In Korea, publicly insulting another person (w/o justification) is a crime. So the following type of comedic segment would not be possible here.


Bill Maher: “Now that many Republicans have come forward in the last week to finally admit that ‘okay you were right; Sarah Palin is a crazy person,’ they have to ask themselves what else might I have been completely wrong about all these years. Now in case you missed it, Palin made a speech in Iowa a couple of weeks ago that cryptologists are still working on. And which I had been holding off on discussing on the outside chance it might be brilliant in some other language. Let’s look at a few moments, shall we, to see for oursleves what prompted conservatives to finally throw Sarah Palin under the bus.”

(Clips of Sarah Palin babbling)

Bill Maher: “Boy, that really brings me back to the 80s when you’d get a chick back to your apartment to do coke, and she’d do too much and start rambling, and you’d think boy, I have made a huge mistake here…”

From his show in early 2015 (Link)


I think the biggest problem with the crime of “Insult” (모욕) is that it’s too vague what exactly constitutes a crime when. Recently, the Seoul Southern District Court overturned a lower court decision which had found a professor guilty of insulting a social commentator. (During a podcast, the professor had referred to the commentator as a “wacko.”) The court basically reasoned that the term was one which a public figure could put up with. To learn more about this crime, click here. Thanks!

Residential Tenants in Korea: Protect Your Tenancy & Deposit!

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This post is about “월세,” not “전세.” So, “deposit” refers to “월세 보증금.”


I. How to Protect Your Tenancy via Resident Registration (주민등록)

Once you receive the keys to your new place, visit your community service center (주민센터) and complete the “resident registration” (주민등록) process. From the following day, you’ll be able to assert your tenancy against any 3rd party (e.g., a new landlord). This is because all 3rd parties are deemed to be on record notice (starting from the following day). FYI: For foreigners, this “resident registration” process can be substituted by “reporting a change in one’s place of sojourn” (체류지변경신고) as required under the Immigration Control Act (출입국관리법).

II. How to Protect Your Deposit via Confirmation Date (확정일자)

Once you’ve done the above, you can also try to safeguard your deposit, if any, via obtaining a “confirmation date” (확정일자) on your lease agreement document. You can do this also at your community service center. Obtaining a “confirmation date” will allow you to recover all or part of your deposit in the event of a foreclosure. I say “all or part” because there might have been preexisting liens/mortgages. (It’s important to check beforehand for any encumbrances!) But do not worry too much. If your deposit is not too large, the law specifically ensures that your money is recovered first (even when there were preexisting mortagees or lienholders.) In Seoul, for instance, tenants with a deposit of 100 mil won or smaller can recover up to 34 mil won.


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Above is what a standard residential lease agreement looks like.

You can download it here.

Btw, most of the info I wrote about today is from the Housing Lease Protection Act (주택임대차보호법) and its enforcement decree.

Thanks for reading!

Common Misconceptions About Korean Law on Rape

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Hi. Below are some I encounter fairly on a regular basis. (Oh, the chart above is not a misconception. I just made it for ease of understanding.)


1. “The statute of limitations is 6 months…”

I say: No. Before June 2013, it used to be that a victim had to file a criminal complaint (고소) to the police/prosecution within 6 months of having fallen victim. FYI, a statute of limitations (공소시효) is something entirely different. (It’s when the police/prosecution have no leads, and finally the perpetrator cannot be prosecuted. And oh, it’s not 6 months. For rape perpetrated against an adult, it’s always been 10 years!)

2. “A victim has to press charges for the police to investigate…”

I say: No. This, I think, refers to the criminal complaint requirement I just mentioned. But either way, this requirement was abolished in June 2013. And hence, also no longer true is the following statement: “A rapist can essentially bribe his/her victim to avoid criminal punishment…”

3. “Intoxication is a valid legal defense…”

I say: Yes and no. Ever since the Nayoung Case, Korean courts have voluntarily tended not to recognize intoxication as either a partial or full defense in rape cases. I hope this is ASAP made mandatory (by law).

4. “Quasi-Rape is not really Rape…”

I say: Yes and no. “Quasi-Rape” and “Rape” are technically different crimes, but are treated practically the same. For example, the identical sentencing as outlined in the Criminal Act (형법). FYI, “Quasi-Rape” refers to instances where the rapist took advantage of the victim’s already incapacitated state. (“Quasi” does not mean “sort of criminal…”)


To learn a little more about Korean law on rape, click here.

Have a nice weekend!

Supreme Court of Korea: The Customer is NOT Always Right!

[Example Situation]

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Mr. Kim is the proud owner/franchisee of a bakery in Gunpo City, South Korea. One day, a Mr. Lee buys candies from Mr. Kim’s bakery. Four days later, Mr. Lee files a complaint straight to the franchisor’s head office. His complaint: The candies he bought had passed their expiration date by more than 2 months! (FYI, he complains in person with photos as evidence.) As settlement, Mr. Lee demands 2.5 mil won (approx. 100 times what he paid). The head office says no, and Mr. Lee now reports the incident to the police. Soon, Gunpo City orders Mr. Kim to suspend operations for 15 days. Mr. Kim is furious! He’s positive Mr. Lee is but a gold-digging liar! Mr. Kim files a claim (against Gunpo City) asking the court to revoke the order. Q: How is a Korean court likely to decide?


The above example is similar to a case recently reported here in Korea.

I. The Ruling

The Supreme Court reversed and remanded an appellate court decision which had rejected Mr. Kim’s claim. (The trial court had rejected his claim also.) In the Court’s view, Mr. Kim was right. Mr. Lee was a liar!

II. Reasoning

We’re not God, so it’s impossible to know with 100% certainty a person’s exact intentions. The court can only cautiously infer – based on the person’s conduct in the light of the surrounding circumstances. In this case, these are a few things the Court probably took into account:

1. That Mr. Lee went straight to the franchisor’s head office + (straight up) demanded an unusually large amount of money.

2. That franchisee owners can normally receive a full refund for any inventory that couldn’t be sold before its expiration date.

3. That no sanitation problems were found when Mr. Kim’s bakery was last inspected by the head office prior to the incident.


III. Additional Comments

– Why then did the lower courts reject Mr. Kim’s claim? Maybe because (Korean) courts do have some tendency to uphold orders issued by government agencies. (If such orders were easily revoked, too many people would perhaps want to challenge them.) In this case, the order seems have been issued largely based on Mr. Lee’s vociferous allegation.

– In Korea, the Supreme Court is (generally) supposed to hear only disputes that hinge on a matter of law, not fact. In practice, however, the Court has pretty much done away with this principle (as we can see from this case). There are 14 Supreme Court Justices in Korea, but they (alone) handled about 40,000 cases last year! Recently, there was serious talk of setting up a separate court within the Supreme Court to exclusively handle cases of lesser import, but sadly nothing became of it.

– Yes, the franchise (in question) was Paris Baguette. But the photo at the very top is of one I stumbled upon in the U.S. Near Stanford University.

Thank you for reading.