Text Messages Can Make or Break a Rape Case (in Korea)

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In (Korean) rape cases where no (real) outward/objective evidence of coercion is presented, (past) text message exchanges (between accuser and accused) can play an important role in determining guilt.

The Seoul High Court recently affirmed a lower court decision which had found a male high school student not guilty of raping a female middle school student (with mild intellectual disability). FYI, Korean law punishes (essentially) as rape, having sex with a disabled person via taking advantage of his/her inability to (properly) resist due to disability.

In the case, there did not seem to be any outward/objective evidence of coercion. So, text message exchanges (between the two) played a vital role. The exchanges were very friendly as if exchanged between boyfriend and girlfriend. Also, it was not really clear whether the male high school student was even aware that she had intellectual disability.

Korean courts often like to consider how the accuser (i.e., potential rape victim) reacted (vis–à–vis the accused) after the purported rape incident. (Well, also because of rampant false accusations here.) In a case I wrote about last year, for example, the court found a man not guilty of raping a 15-year-old mainly because of the friendly way she treated him during their time together. FYI, the age of consent in Korea is (technically) 13.

Of course there’s criticism. Failure to react “like a victim” cannot disprove a crime actually took place (e.g., Stockholm syndrome).

The counterargument to this could be that there needs to be proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to put somebody behind bars.

Thanks for reading!


Something I read once: According to one professor, the age of consent being 13 came from old Japan. Japan apparently feared a shrinking population, so they encouraged people to procreate as early as poss…

Man Acquitted of Sending ‘Scary’ Text Messages (in Korea)

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The Daejeon District Court recently acquitted a man of sending “scary” text messages to another man suspected of having an affair (w/ his wife).

The man was originally indicted summarily with a criminal fine of KRW 700,000. But believing himself to be innocent, he asked for a formal trial.

It was a jury trial. Out of the 7 jurors, 3 thought he was innocent, while the remaining 4 thought him guilty. But ultimately, the judge decided not to go with the jury verdict. (In Korea, a jury verdict need not be unanimous, but it’s not binding either. To learn more, click here.)

The judge ultimately felt that the 13 text messages (sent by the defendant) did not amount to arousing fear or apprehension. First, the messages were sent only after the other man had refused to receive the defendant’s calls. Second, the messages themselves were not that extreme in nature. Most of them were in the vein of “Give me a call now or I’m heading to your workplace. Avoiding me only makes things worse…” or “Well, I guess you’ll see me in HR tomorrow…” Finally, the other man eventually responded by texting back, “It’s not what you think. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow after work…” Such a response did not really seem like a response from a person in fear/apprehension.

Thanks for reading!

Recent Insult Cases (in South Korea)

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Publicly insulting another person without justification is a crime in South Korea. The perpetrator could face both criminal and civil liability.


I. Recent Criminal Case

The Daejeon District Court found a woman guilty of “Insult” (모욕), etc. and ordered her to pay a criminal fine of 2 mil won. While on a bus ride last year, she accosted another woman passenger and shouted at her, “You’re from Seoul, aren’t you? Well, Daejeon’s always been like this…” + cursed her out, etc. More than 10 people were on the bus at the time.

II. Recent Civil Case

The Seoul Western District Court ordered 5 online commenters to (together) pay activist/filmmaker Kang Ui-seok (or “We-suck” as he likes to go by) about 1 mil won. On Armed Forces Day (October 1st) 2013, Kang staged a flashy one-man protest in front of the Korean War Memorial. Topless, he’d painted the entire upper half of his body red, with the writing, “The military. (Do we) really need one?” on his chest and belly. (Kang was urging the government to recognize and free conscientious objectors.) Upon hearing this news, some people online cursed him out. Kang sued 5 of them, demanding damages in the amount of 21 mil won (for psychological pain and suffering). The court granted less than 1 mil.


III. Additional Comments

1. Online name-calling is now the most common form of publicly insulting another person (w/o justification). So most times, criminal insult in Korea functions (essentially) as a law against cyberbullying.

2. Korea has no comprehensive anti-discrimination law. Interestingly, the use of racial slurs (in public) can be punished under criminal insult.

Thanks for reading!

Drunken Roughhousing (under Korean Law)

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Causing a drunken ruckus in a public place is a minor crime under Korean law. It’s called “Drinking and Disturbance, etc.” (음주소란 등).

– Bad News: You can/will be taken away in cuffs by the police. You can (initially) receive a penalty/fine (범칙금) of up to KRW 100,000.

– Good News: It’s a minor crime (like a misdemeanor in the U.S.), so it won’t end/show up in your criminal record.


Btw, did you know (in Korea) stalking is only a minor crime? The punishment is the same as causing a drunken ruckus (just mentioned)!

Once, a person asked me to write about Korean law on stalking, but there isn’t much to say (except that we need stiffer punishment ASAP).

Oh, there is one thing. If being courted, you need to unequivocally tell him/her: “Stop!” Because Korean police normally intervenes only after you’ve been courted (against your explicit wishes) at least 3 times.

Thanks for reading!

Rallies Near Embassies Not Always Prohibited (in Korea)…

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In Korea, the Seoul Administrative Court recently ruled that not all outdoor rallies near embassies are prohibited. This ruling is in line with the current law. In this case, “exception (b)” (from above law) was cited.

In November 2015, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency banned an organization called Solidarity for Peace and Unification of Korea from holding a rally near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. (In Korea, all outdoor rallies have to be reported to the police ahead of time. FYI, that rally was going to be about U.S. involvement in the deployment of THAAD in South Korea.) The organization then asked the court to lift/rescind the ban.

The court lifted/rescinded the ban saying:

1) The organization’s previous rallies were attended (only) by about 50 people, and all they did was picket (at best).

2) The organization’s subsequent rally (outside the 100-meter radius) was peaceful. (e.g., picketing, conducting surveys, handing out flyers…)


DID YOU KNOW?

In September 2009, the Constitutional Court of Korea found the law prohibiting outdoor rallies from taking place “before sunrise or after sunset” as incompatible with the constitution. Accordingly, the Court said the law would lose effect at the end of June 2010. The Court was expecting lawmakers to amend the law by that time. Well, the law hasn’t been touched even until now. Earlier this month, an amendment was proposed so that outdoor rallies only from 12 to 6 a.m. would be banned.

Thanks for reading!

Sex Worker (in Korea) Ultimately Found Guilty of Prostitution…

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In Korea, the Seoul Northern District Court recently found a woman sex worker guilty of prostitution. She received a criminal fine of 1 mil won.

She was indicted way back in July 2012, but she requested that the court (i.e., the Seoul Northern District Court) ask the Constitutional Court for a constitutional review of the law criminalizing prostitution. The court accepted her request. But in March 2016, the Constitutional Court found the law constitutional (via a 6:3 vote). So the court had no choice but to find her guilty. (She had performed sex in exchange for KRW 130,000.)

The Constitutional Court basically felt:

1) Legalization promotes the commodification of sex, and selling/buying sex is inherently an unfair bargain (with negative ramifications).

2) The current laws do have an effect on curbing the selling/buying of sex, and continued criminalization (for both seller/buyer) is necessary.

To learn about how “prostitution” is defined in Korea, click here.

Below was a memorable Cops episode for me.

Thanks for reading!

Daycare Teacher (in Korea) Going to Jail for Child Abuse!

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The Seoul Central District Court recently found a female daycare teacher guilty of child abuse and manslaughter. She was sentenced to one year in prison (no probation) + received a criminal fine of 5 mil won. She will also have to attend 40 hours of child abuser’s treatment program.

Back in November 2014, she caused an 11-month-old baby boy to suffocate to death. She had used a blanket to wrap the baby (from head to toe) so that he would/could not move. As a result, the baby became brain dead and died the following month (after donating his organs).

In December 2015, the daycare teacher was summarily indicted for (only) manslaughter for which the prosecution was seeking a criminal fine of 5 mil won. (FYI: Summary indictments are normally reserved only for relatively minor crimes such as drunk driving or prostitution. No formal trial is needed if the defendant accepts the punishment sought.) But believing herself to be innocent, she asked for a formal trial.

But the public became aware of this case too. Against the backdrop of public outrage, the prosecution decided to add the crime of child abuse to their indictment. This was for the other/previous times the daycare teacher had maltreated the baby. Why was this move necessary? When a defendant (who’s been summarily indicted for a crime) asks for a formal trial, the court cannot render stiffer punishment (for that crime) than the original punishment sought. In other words, 5 mil won was the max she could receive even if found guilty of killing the baby that day.


The prosecution were themselves negligent by indicting her summarily with only a fine of 5 mil won. This is highly irregular for manslaughter. A report said the prosecutor (in charge) was in a hurry to wrap up the case because he/she was scheduled to go for training abroad.

To learn more about criminal negligence in Korea, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Six Plastic Surgeons (in Korea) Found Guilty of Paying People to Write Fake Online Reviews!

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The Busan District Court recently found six plastic surgeons guilty of hiring/paying people to post fake (favorable) reviews. The six surgeons paid about 600 mil won to three people (who worked in advertising and/or ran internet forums relating to plastic surgery here in Korea).

The six surgeons each received a criminal fine of 3-5 mil won. The three people who did their dirty work received much stiffer punishment. One received a criminal fine, but the other two were sentenced to prison for 10 and 6 months, respectively. (But even those two were able to receive probation, meaning they won’t have to actually spend time in jail.)

According to reports, the (fake) reviews were written as if the (fake) poster had actually received plastic surgery from those clinics. (Fake) before-and-after photos would be attached as well. Finally, numerous (fake) comments/replies agreeing with those reviews would be posted.


In Korea, many people like to share quality information (about this and that) via internet forums (known here as “인터넷 카페”). These are usually closed forums where only approved members can read/write. (But even their posts/comments can become public via search result!)

I’m not sure why many people have come to prefer sharing information this way. Maybe because of the private/closed nature of the forums. And that (at least) its members have a mutual interest in sharing the truth?

At any rate, the lesson is that one should not trust blindly information found on such forums. The same goes for blogs. Thanks for reading!

The More Serious Rape-Related Crimes (under Korean Law)

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If a rapist/groper (also) inflicts bodily injury to or kills the victim, the crime becomes more serious. The punishment becomes more severe.


I. The Punishment for 강간치상 or 강간상해

1. Victim is 19 or older: life (imprisonment) or at least 5 (years)

2. Victim is ages 13-18: life or at least 7

3. Victim is 12 or younger: life or at least 10

4. Victim is a relative: life or at least 7

5. Victim is a disabled person: life or at least 10

II. The Punishment for 강간치사

1. Victim is 19 or older: life (imprisonment) or at least 10 (years)

2. Victim is ages 13-18: (the) death (penalty) or life or at least 10

3. Victim is 12 or younger: death or life or at least 10

4. Victim is a relative: life or at least 10

5. Victim is a disabled person: death or life or at least 10

III. The Punishment for 강간살인

1. Victim is 19 or older: (the) death (penalty) or life (imprisonment)

2. Victim is ages 13-18: death or life

3. Victim is 12 or younger: death or life

4. Victim is a relative: death or life

5. Victim is a disabled person: death or life


IV. Additional Comments

1. For all of the above crimes, the “bodily injury” or “killing” must have occurred in relation to committing (attempted) rape/groping. This could be (right) before / during / (right) after, but there needs to be causality.

2. “Bodily injury” (상해) is a relative concept. In principle, it does not include injuries that heal on their own (within a week or so) + don’t affect the carrying on with everyday activities (e.g., a minor bruise –> unlikely! vs. a swollen+bloody nose, or painful urination –> possible!).

3. For “강간치상” and “강간치사,” the result (i.e., bodily injury or death) should have been (relatively) foreseeable. In a case where the rape victim died while trying to escape (via jumping out the window), the Korean Supreme Court recognized the crime of “강간치사” (98도724).

Thanks for reading!

Car Accident Law in Korea: Giving Someone a Lift/Ride…

[Example Situation]

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One spring weekend, Boyfriend and Girlfriend decide to go see cherry blossoms together. They decide to go by (Boyfriend’s) car. Boyfriend is the driver, and Girlfriend is a passenger. (She’s not paying for the ride.) Alas… On the way, they get into a horrible car accident (with a huge truck), and Girlfriend is killed on the spot. It turns out the accident was 75% Boyfriend’s fault and 25% the truck driver’s fault. How much compensation can/will Girlfriend’s family receive under Korean law?


The above example is based on Supreme Court Decision 2012다87263.

I. The Ruling

Boyfriend’s insurance company was ordered to pay about 225 mil won, and the truck driver’s was ordered to pay about 75 mil won.

So Girlfriend’s family was able to receive about 300 mil won (total).

II. Reasoning

The amounts reflect the 75% vs. 25%, and that was not the issue. The real issue: Whether the fact that Boyfriend was giving Girlfriend a lift/ride should factor in at all. Does this reduce Boyfriend’s responsibility vis–à–vis Girlfriend? And the truck driver’s responsibility too? A: Yes, and yes.

In this case, both by 20% to be exact. So in theory, her family could have received a max amount of about 375 mil won (total). The (mere) fact that Boyfriend was kinda doing Girlfriend a favor essentially reduced that amount to about 300 mil won (total). But what’s really noteworthy about this case is that the truck driver’s responsibility was reduced as well!

The lower courts had denied reducing the truck driver’s responsibility saying that such a relationship existed only/strictly between Boyfriend and Girlfriend. So why should a 3rd party benefit by chance?

The Supreme Court reversed and remanded this part saying that, Boyfriend and the truck driver are joint tortfeasors (vis–à–vis Girlfriend), so how much they jointly owe her (family) should be calculated first. And in such case, the 20% reduction cannot but affect the truck driver too. The photo at the top is the Court explaining this.

III. Additional Comments

1. Only in the 90s did the courts start recognizing such reductions. 10% is now usually the starting point. Can go up to 30% if the passenger knew it would be a dangerous ride (e.g., knew the driver had no license).

2. The rate depends on things such as: where they were headed (+ to do what), how they know each other, how actively the passenger had asked for that ride…  –> ultimately, if reduction is the fair/equitable thing to do.

Thanks for reading!